Eight suspected al Qaeda members killed in Multan

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LAHORE: Security forces on Thursday said they killed eight al Qaeda militants during a raid in Multan after learning of their plans to attack a local university.

The operation, which officials said was carried out on Wednesday night after an intelligence tip-off, occurred on the city’s outskirts, a spokesperson for the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab, told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

“On the basis of the information, a joint team of ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and CTD Multan carried out a raid at the meeting point, near the village of Nawabpur on the bank of the river Chenab in Multan, resulting in intense fire from the militants,” he said.

The CTD official said the militants fired rockets and hand grenades during the encounter, and several were able to escape.

Two of the men who were killed were said to have murdered a senior military officer while another, “Hafiz Abdul Mateen” was accused of masterminding a 2009 attack on a mosque in Rawalpindi that killed around 40 people.

No security officials were said to have been killed or injured in the raids, and authorities are routinely accused by rights groups of staging such encounters to carry out extra-judicial killings of people who are already in custody.

Muhammad Amir Rana, a senior security analyst, said none of the names disclosed by authorities were familiar, raising further questions.

“It’s true that al Qaeda exists in this region and an operation is also underway in Punjab against all kind of militants, but the names disclosed after this recent raid are not familiar,” he said.

In 2015, government stepped up a multi-pronged offensive against religious extremists and other militants through military operations, raids, as well as a crackdown on some hardline seminaries and money laundering as part of the National Action Plan.

It came in the wake of a Taliban massacre at Peshawar’s Army Public School in December 2014 in which 134 children were killed.

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