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Pakistan Army roped in jehadis to hold talks with GHQ hostage takers

Friday 16 October 2009

LAHORE: Some key leaders of several jehadi and sectarian groups, including a jailed militant, were flown from Lahore, Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan cities of Pakistan’s Punjab province to the garrison town of Rawalpindi through special chartered flights to hold talks with the hostage takers who had stormed the GHQ building on October 10, 2009.

According to well informed officials in Islamabad who are privy to the October 10 developments at the GHQ, having stormed the army headquarters and taken hostage 42 people, including the security force personnel, the terrorists had listed their demands and expressed their desire to directly hold talks with the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. The hostage takers had given a list of the jailed militants belonging to several Sunni Deobandi militant and sectarian groups, seeking their release, failing which, the hostages were threatened to be killed one by one. However, as a time buying tactic, the negotiators decided to rope in some key leaders of several jehadi and sectarian groups to hold talks with terrorists. Special planes were subsequently dispatched to Lahore, Bahawalpur and Rahim Yar Khan to bring to Rawalpindi Malik Ishaq, a jailed leader of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Mufti Abdul Rauf, the younger brother of Maulana Masood Azhar who is the acting ameer of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, the chief of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, to hold talks with the hostage takers.

According to the sources, though Malik Ishaq and Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi had been taken to Pindi because of their sectarian connection with the Taliban-linked attackers, the SSP leaders, in the very beginning of the telephonic negotiations with the hostage takers, told the military authorities that they had no prior acquaintance with any of the attackers. Later, Mufti Abdul Rauf and Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil of the Jamiatul Ansar, who was summoned from the federal capital Islamabad, tried to negotiate with the hostage takers, the main objective once again being trying to buy some more time to plan out the rescue operation. The sources said during the talks, the authorities had managed to send in some security forces personnel in plain clothes with an excuse of bringing food for the hostages into the building where they were being kept. The subsequent rescue operation on the morning of October 11, 2009 was carried out on the basis of the information provided by them regarding the number of the hostage takers and the positions they had taken inside the seized security offices of the General Headquarters.

Soon after getting hold of the security personnel and the civilians, the terrorists had threatened to kill them in batches of ten every hour if their demands were not accepted by the authorities. The negotiators had asked the attackers to wait till Saturday morning for the release of the jailed militants so that they could be brought to Rawalpindi. However, the rescue operation was launched at 6 in the morning before the expiry of the deadline. According to the official sources, the detainees had been divided into two groups of 20 and 22 and kept in different rooms of the building by four terrorists each.

Despite the fact that the attackers guarding the hostages had don suicide jackets, the first one to go down at the very outset of the rescue operation by the SSG commandos was shot point blank in the head who collapsed without having the chance to blow himself up. Of the remaining four, three simply blew themselves by exploding their suicide jackets up when the commandos tried to enter the building. It may be recalled that all the four jehadi leaders who were roped in by the military authorities to hold talks with the GHQ hostage takers had earlier been engaged by the Musharraf regime way back in July 2007 with the fanatic clerics of the infamous Lal Mosque in the heart of Islamabad.

Interestingly, Mohammad Aqeel alias Dr Osman, instead of blowing up himself with his suicidal jacket, adopted a unique tactic. As his fellow terrorists blew up themselves, he set ablaze his explosive-laden jacket in one room and hid himself in the false ceiling of another room inside the security offices of the GHQ. As the rescue operation ended and the clearance of the building started, everybody was looking for him because only four dead bodies of other terrorists were found. And the man negotiating with the authorities, who had identified himself as Aqeel alias Dr Osman was missing. The sources say he had camouflaged himself well and kept out of sight for a couple of hours until bad luck struck him in the face. The false ceiling couldn’t bear his weight any longer and simply collapsed, throwing Aqeel on the floor and hurting his head badly. Having survived the head injury, Mohammad Aqeel is reportedly out of danger.

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