Several Islamic State commanders killed in Pak raid
The influential Dawn daily revealed the operation was prompted by intelligence reports that two Chinese nationals, who had been kidnapped in May from Quetta, were believed to be in the vicinity and being kept in one of the caves there.world Updated: Jun 04, 2017 20:23 IST
Several key commanders of the Islamic State group have reportedly been killed in a major counterterrorism operation in Balochistan prompted by intelligence reports that the group were holding two kidnapped Chinese nationals.
The three-day raid took place near the hilly Mastung area of Balochistan province, local media reported on Sunday, quoting security officials.
So far, the army’s publicity wing has not confirmed details of the operation, which is being described as one of the biggest against IS supporters in Pakistan.
The influential Dawn daily revealed the operation was prompted by intelligence reports that two Chinese nationals, who had been kidnapped in May from capital Quetta, were believed to be in the vicinity and being kept in one of the caves there.
Dawn quoted a source as saying, “The battle is going on ... kidnapped Chinese persons are inside a deep cave being used as command base by the IS. Special Services Group commandos are going in.”
The Saturday night operation was highly classified, according to a military source, to prevent any leakage of information.
According to reports, top 10 commanders of the IS from different parts of the country had assembled in the Mastung area for a meeting when the raid began.
It is claimed that at least eight or nine of the commanders were killed and the remaining have been captured.
The names of the slain commanders were not immediately available.
Reports of intense fighting between government forces and IS militias continue as experts say that the area is a very tough terrain and has always been a challenge for the army.
At least seven troops were injured in the operation, including three officers. Two of the injured soldiers are said to be in a critical condition.
The level of the IS leadership claimed to have been taken out, when confirmed, indicates that it could be the biggest operation against the militant outfit since Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq was killed along with his associates in Punjab in 2015, who were then said to be close to joining the IS.
Security sources say elimination of top leadership would serve a major blow to the IS in Pakistan. Officially, the government denies presence of the militant organisation in the country.
Security forces also seized six suicide jackets, a cache of ammunition, explosives, detonators, solar panels and food ration, an official said, adding the cave was a base used by IS to plan attacks across the country.
The two Chinese workers were abducted last month in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, raising safety concerns for Beijing’s multi-billion-dollar investments in the country.
One Chinese woman managed to escape as the men began firing in the air to scare off onlookers.
A passer-by, Muhammad Zahir, was shot as he tried to prevent the abduction.
Mineral-rich Balochistan has been plagued by Islamist and separatist insurgencies since 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting.
But a greater push towards peace and development by Pakistani authorities has reduced overall levels of violence in recent years. (With inputs from agencies)
First Published: Jun 04, 2017 16:39 IST