RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s military on Thursday admitted for the first time that the Islamic State group had a presence in the country but said it had apprehended hundreds of its militants and prevented them from carrying out major attacks.
The army’s spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said forces had foiled planned attacks by IS on foreign embassies and Islamabad airport but denied the group was behind last month’s suicide blast on a hospital that killed 73, as it had claimed.
“Daesh tried to make an ingress into Pakistan, but the core of its group have now been apprehended,” Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa told a press conference, using the group’s Arabic acronym.
Bajwa added that a total of 309 militants — from both its planning wing (Kutaiba Haris) and fighter wing (Kutaiba Mubashir), including its “mastermind” Hafiz Umar and top commander Ali Rehman had been held and the group had been contained.
The group’s leader in Pakistan and Afghanistan was killed in a US drone strike in Afghanistan last month.
The spokesman said IS had carried out several small-scale attacks including the killing of human rights activist Sabeen Mahmud in Karachi in 2015, clashed with and killed security personal, as well as committing several grenade attacks on TV channels that had injured journalists.
But he denied it had been behind an attack on a hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta last month that killed 73 people, including most of the city’s senior lawyers, in the second deadliest attack of the year. The suicide bombing was also claimed by Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.
“We haven’t gotten any evidence of any linkage with Daesh — (the claim) was an attempt to glorify themselves”.
Bajwa said the security situation in the country was worst in 2014 when the operation Zarb-e-Azab was launched and “Armed Forces are demonstrating zero tolerance against terrorism”.
He said Armed Forces also destroyed 992 hideouts of terrorists and removed 7,599 explosive mines in Khyber Agency.
“The forces also seized 35,310 rockets and 253 tons explosive material which was enough for carrying bomb blasts for 21 years, having the capacity to target about 134,000 persons.”
Internally Displaced Persons
Talking about rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs) of the cleared areas, he said a total of 66 percent IDPs had returned to their native towns and remaining 34,000 IDPs would return by the end of this year, he informed.
Responding to another question, he said significant decrease in violent incidents has been registered in Karachi after the Rangers operation.
Giving details he said that a total 74 per cent decrease in terror activities, 94 per cent decrease in target killing and 89 per cent decrease in kidnapping for ransom incidents was recorded.
At least 30 Jawans of Rangers embraced martyrdom and 89 others sustained injuries. As many as 848 target killers have been sent behind the bars in Karachi operation while 268 hideouts of terrorists were busted.