Punjab home minister says terror suspect Abdali and his group were planning to target IB offices in Lahore
The head of al Qaeda in Pakistan was among the four militants killed in Monday’s police raid in Sheikhupura district’s Kala Shah Kaku area, a provincial official said on Wednesday.
Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada named the al Qaeda leader only as “Abdali” in a news conference and said he and three other operatives were planning an attack on government figures.
“Their leader who was giving them the briefings, who was leading the entire team, was the head of al Qaeda in Pakistan. His name was Abdali,” he told reporters.
The minister later confirmed by telephone that Abdali was one of four killed on Monday when security forces raided a hideout in the small town of Kala Shah Kaku, a few kilometres outside Lahore.
Officials said they were acting on a tip-off when they raided the militants’ hideout and had received intelligence that the group was planning an attack on the provincial headquarters of the Intelligence Bureau (IB).
Al Qaeda’s South Asian branch leader, Maulana Asim Umar, was the “mastermind of the plan,” Khanzada said. The terrorists travelled from Wana to Dera Ismail Khan and then arrived in Lahore through a bus, he added.
The minister said Pakistan and Afghanistan are assisting each other through intelligence sharing, which would ensure that terrorists would not be able to find sanctuary in either country.
Khanzada’s claims could not be independently verified.
A senior official, who did not want to be named, had earlier said that four terrorists were killed in the encounter. One, identified as Abdali of Muridke, blew himself up to avoid arrest, while three others were killed in a heavy exchange of fire, the official had said.
A huge cache of weapons including AK-47s, rocket launchers and suicide vests and laptops was seized in the raid, police said at the time.
An al Qaeda presence remains in Pakistan since the killing of top leader Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid by US forces in Abbottabad.
Many Islamist militants from the western region near Afghanistan have fled to other parts of the country, officials say, as security forces press on with ground and air offensives in North Waziristan.
Pakistan Army has killed more than 2,700 militants during Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan since June last year, following a deadly attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, destroying more than 800 of their hideouts.