February 12, 2016
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has arrested 97 al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants, including three commanders, in the southern city of Karachi and foiled a planned attack to break US journalist Daniel Pearl's killer out of jail, the army said Friday.
The men are accused of involvement in major attacks on two Pakistani air bases, the Karachi airport, several regional intelligence headquarters and on police installations between 2009 and 2015, the military said.
The LeJ's Naeem Bokhari and Sabir Khan, as well as Farooq Bhatti, deputy chief of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), were captured by Pakistani forces in recent raids, military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said.
"Our conclusion is that all of the terrorist groups are trying to cooperate with each other in order to carry out terrorist attacks," he told a news conference.
The LeJ and AQIS had been working "in collusion" with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, Bajwa added.
Bajwa declined to give details of the raids, including their timing.
Several of those arrested, including Bokhari, were in the advanced stages of planning a jailbreak attempt on the Hyderabad Central Jail, Bajwa said.
Omar Sheikh (pictured), who kidnapped and killed Wall Street Journal's Daniel Pearl in 2002, is being held at that jail and was to be released during the raid, he said.
Six suicide bombers had been enlisted in the attack plan, in addition to 19 involved in facilitating it, Bajwa said. More than 350 kg (772 lb) of explosives had been recovered from a building believed to be a hideout, he said.
The attackers planned to raid the prison compound with two vans filled with explosives, and had a list of about 35 prisoners they planned to kill, Bajwa said, displaying pencil sketches of the prison allegedly made by the militants.
They had a separate list of about 100 prisoners, including Sheikh, whom they were supposed to release, he added.
Video images of the militants' hideout showed blue plastic barrels filled with explosives, washing machines that had been used to transport arms and ammunition, long lengths of detonating cord and dozens of ball bearings.
The footage also showed several rifles that Bajwa said had been stolen from police in earlier targeted attacks.
"This plan was 90 percent ready for execution," he added. - Reuters
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