Pakistan army raid frees hostages as GHQ siege ends
Pakistani security forces have freed more than 40 hostages who were being held by militants at an army Compound in Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad.
Military officials said three hostages were killed in the operation along with at least four hostage-takers, one of whom was wearing an explosives belt.
The mastermind of the attack has been arrested alive in injured condition.
The terrorists attacked Pakistan's military headquarters on Saturday.
Six soldiers and four other militants had already been killed in the 24-hour siege, which began on Saturday in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said troops went in at about 6:00 am and met resistance from five militants armed with suicide vests and barricaded in a building in the city, which adjoins Islamabad.
‘Thirty-nine hostages were rescued and three were killed,’ Abbas told media, adding that the captives were shot dead by the militants.
‘The militants had suicide jackets, improvised explosive devices, grenades.... They wanted to blow up all the hostages and cause maximum damage.’
He said that two soldiers and four of the insurgents were killed in the rescue operation.
The leader of the militant team escaped and detonated a number of explosives, before being injured and arrested.
‘The operation is over. It was highly successful,’ Abbas added.
Pakistani Taliban militants linked to al-Qaida have launched numerous attacks over the past couple of years, most aimed at the government and security forces, including bomb attacks in Rawalpindi.
On Saturday, gunmen wearing army uniforms attacked the army headquarters killing six soldiers including a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel in a gun battle at a main gate.
Five gunmen were killed there and two of their wounded colleagues captured, but others fled and took hostages in the building housing security offices near the headquarters.
Commandos launched their rescue assault under cover of darkness with a blast and gunfire erupting at 6 am (midnight Saturday GMT).
The head of the terrorists Aqeel alias Dr Usman was arrested in injured condition, who is said to be linked with attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.
Gen Abbas said that intelligence officials were investigating possible links between the sole surviving militant – named as Aqeel, also known as Doctor Usman – and the March attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.
The Rawalpindi attack bore similarities to the March gun-and-grenade attack, which left six policemen and two civilians dead. Abbas said the militant held Sunday had the same name and alias as one of the Lahore attack suspects.
The military officials said the five terrorists, who were holed up in an office of the Military Intelligence agency, appeared to have been prepared for holding out for up to five days as they were carrying a large amount of food and supplies.
They also had a cache of suicide jackets, grenades, explosives and improvised explosive devices.
The attack came as the army was preparing for a major operation against the Taliban, and officials said the militant group had claimed responsibility.
The Taliban had been threatening to carry out attacks unless operations against it were stopped.
Earlier on Saturday picked up the owner of a house believed to have been rented to the people suspected of involvement in the attack at the General Headquarters (GHQ).
The house is situated in Dhok Awan, Model Town Humak, and lies within the jurisdiction of the Sihala police.
The raiding party found the entrance to the house already unlocked and saw several sets of Pakistan Army uniform, maps of sensitive locations, fuses and detonators used in explosives, material used in making suicide jackets, several identity cards, etc.
Two pairs of trousers, two jeans, over 10 pairs of Shalwar Kameez and slippers were also found.
The police also stumbled upon the rent agreement of the house which, according to the document, was hired on Sept 9 against a rent of Rs10,000.
The evidence suggested that the suspects had been staying at the place for the past 20 to 25 days.
Preliminary investigation showed that 10 to 12 people were living in the house. Most of them were clean-shaven and some had moustache.
Suspicious movements of people riding in sports utility vehicles were seen around the house on Friday night, an official said.
- Asian Tribune -