Pakistan: Military poised for more militant raids in Punjab

Islamabad, 8 Dec. (AKI) - By Syed Saleem Shahzad - Pakistan's armed forces have been mobilised for more raids targeting leaders from the banned Kashmiri separatist group Lashkar-e-Toiba in Punjab province. The move follows the arrest of the group's chief operational commander, Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi, alleged by India to be the mastermind of last month's deadly Mumbai attacks.

Other top commanders and group members were expected to be arrested late on Monday in military raids on the town of Muredkey, where Jamaatut Dawa (formerly Lashkar-e-Toiba) has its headquarters, as well as Sheikhupura, Faisalabad and other important cities.

On Sunday, a military helicopter gunship attacked the group's headquarters in Shawai Nullah outside the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, Muzaffarabad. The army overwhelmed the militants after 90 minutes and several were arrested.

Lakhwi was not arrested in the Shawai operation but in another, undisclosed location, at the request of security agencies. He is to be interrogated by a joint team of agents from the FBI and Pakistan's spy agency ISI.

An ISI team on Sunday also visited Jamaatut Dawa's provincial headquarters in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi. ISI officials questioned Jamaatut Dawa staff but did not carry out any search operations.

Islamabad has denied any role in the Mumbai attacks which left at least 170 people dead. But some of the gunmen are said to have had links to Pakistani militants.

Indian investigators have said that the only gunman captured in Mumbai, Azam Amir Qasab, told them he had been recruited by Lashkar-e-Toiba, and trained at a camp run by the group.

Although Pakistan formally banned Lashkar-e-Toiba after Al-Qaeda's 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States and curbed the group's activities, its camps were never closed, according to analysts.


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