By Zia Ur Rehman
For CentralAsiaOnline.com
2011-06-24

KARACHI – Security officials have made progress against extremists, forcing such groups as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and al-Qaeda to splinter into smaller cells, an indication that their network is shattered, analysts and police say.

“]Having the factions split up is an end result that has been partially achieved by such things as the deaths of extremist leaders and the cultivation of informants among the public.

“The killing of Osama bin Laden, Baitullah Mehsud and other key leaders is the main factor shattering the TTP network across the country,” Brig. Shaukat Qadir, a security analyst, told Central Asia Online. Bin Laden’s May 2 death in Abbottabad was, at the time, predicted to be a test for the militant network.

Different militant outfits collaborating with the TTP and al-Qaeda are splitting up because al-Qaeda funding has dried up, Qadir said.

“This is indeed a success of security forces against the TTP, as a large number of TTP hardcore militants as well as some al-Qaeda operatives have been apprehended in Karachi,” he said.

Hundreds of suspects caught

Police have also been working to get information from citizens.

“We have developed a strong network of … informers in militant groups that help us track down the militant outfits,” Chaudry Aslam, senior superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Sindh Police, told Central Asia Online.

That has helped with the fight.

“In 2010, we arrested 163 members of the TTP while more than 200 have been arrested from the beginning of this year,” Aslam said.

Law enforcement has hindered the activities of the Karachi TTP network by arresting three consecutive alleged amirs, or TTP heads, and dozens of members, Ikram Mehsud, a TTP leader in Karachi, admitted.

The suspected Karachi TTP chiefs whom police nabbed were Akhter Zaman Mehsud, Bahadur Khan Momand (aka Sadiq) and Maulvi Saeed Anwar, he said.

Such arrests have been “a blessing for the people” as they will slow terrorist activities in Karachi until newly appointed leaders can rebuild the network, Aslam said.

Many small terror cells discovered

But a new challenge has emerged. Every month, law enforcement agencies are uncovering new and little-known militant organisations, said Ahmed Wali, a Karachi-based senior journalist who covers militancy-related issues.

“We have developed a strong network of … informers in militant groups that help us track down the militant outfits,” Chaudry Aslam, senior superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Sindh Police, told Central Asia Online.

Such groups include Jundullah, the Badar Mansoor group, Kharooj, the Al-Mukhtar group, Punjabi Mujahidin, Al-Furqan, Laskhar-e-Balochistan and Al-Qataal – all discovered within the past year, Wali said. Splinter groups typically arise in one of two ways.

“First, when some leaders form their own outfit, abandoning their jihadi group and forming direct links with the TTP and al-Qaeda,” said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies.

Second, forming a new and little-known operational cell comprising a few members who are responsible for carrying out activities in a specific geographic location,” he said, adding that this method allows the militants to dodge security officials longer.

Karachi police discovered the Badar Mansoor faction of the TTP May 12. It allegedly consists of students from Karachi academic institutions, including the University of Karachi. Four of its alleged members were planning to attack government installations and intelligence agency offices, Karachi Police Chief Saud Mirza said May 13.

The same group, operating under the name of Punjabi Mujahideen in Karachi’s colleges, was also involved in the December 28 bombing at the University of Karachi that injured four students, he added.

Karachi police discovered the Al-Mukhtar group by arresting one of its suspected key leaders in a raid April 26. Police accuse the Omar Baloch-led group of involvement in bombing a gambling den April 21. They have since learned it is a splinter group of Laskhar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) whose militants trained in South Waziristan, Fayyaz Khan, a senior CID official, told Central Asia Online.

Sindh Police’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) also arrested Abdul Qadir Kalmati (aka Rocket) April 4. They accuse of him belonging to Lashkar-e-Balochistan (LeB), a Baloch separatist group involved in attacking police stations and security installations. Kalmati has admitted under questioning that LeB is working with the TTP, said Raja Omar Khitab, the SIU’s senior superintendent of police.

Kharooj is another new and little-known militant organisation operating in Karachi that has been recruiting the young, especially students of academic institutions, the Daily Express reported May 11. The group’s leaders are hardcore militants who separated from the TTP and the LeJ after feuding with their leadership, the report added.

Dispersion may help militants

Jundullah, the Asian Tigers, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami, Jundul Hafsa and the Punjabi Taliban are the main groups that split off from the LeJ and are carrying out its subversive activities from Karachi to Waziristan, a report published last November in the Express Tribune stated.

The article stated that the LeJ is the biggest group operating in Karachi and that of 246 suspected terrorists arrested in the city since 2001, 94 belonged to the LeJ, according to a secret CID report.

However, some say breaking up and scattering the militants may improve their chances of survival.

The small cell strategy makes each cell responsible for carrying out activities in a specific geographic location, said Rana.

“And the main purpose is to divert the attention of security officers,” he said. Indeed, because so few people are in the cells and they are so scattered, their existence comes to light only “when law enforcement agencies arrest their members.”

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