Nearly 100 people have been arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of having ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and planning terror attacks across the Asian country, a military spokesman says.
As many as 97 terrorists, including three militant commanders, were detained after counter-terrorism forces raided their hideouts during a series of recent raids across Karachi, Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa said in Islamabad Friday.
The detained militants had been involved in subversive activities, including multiple major attacks on air bases, a major airport and police installations, he said.
Bajwa also said that several of those arrested were in the advanced stages of planning a raid on the central jail in Hyderabad in order to facilitate a jailbreak. The militants intended to have Khalid Omar Sheikh, a top militant commander held at that prison, released.
Sheikh is a British terrorist of Pakistani descent with links to various terrorist groups. He is best known for his role in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Sheikh was originally recruited by British intelligence agency MI6 while studying at the London School of Economics.
Military sources said al-Qaeda operatives and members of a notorious outlawed anti-Shia terrorist group known as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) are among those arrested.
The terrorist group LeJ, which has been involved in several attacks on Shia Muslims in recent years, is largely funded by Saudi Arabia.
The group has also been involved in an attack on the Iranian Cultural Center in Multan, the assassination of Iranian diplomat Sadiq Ganji in Lahore, and the killing of Iranian Air Force cadets visiting Pakistan in the 1990s.
Rights groups say the Islamabad government must take decisive actions against forces involved in the targeted killings of Shia Muslims. The Shias also accuse Islamabad of failing to provide proper security for the Muslim community.
Shia Muslims make up about a third of Pakistan’s population of over 180 million.
Thousands of Pakistanis have lost their lives in bombings and other militant attacks over the past decades.