Militants freed to secure release of abducted cops

Afzal Khan
Filed on July 18, 2013

In an embarrasing swap, the Punjab police released three men of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) in exchange for the release of eight policemen held hostage by Chotu Mazari, a most wanted member of the LJ.

Provincal lawmaker Atif Mazari struck the deal with Mazari’s aide Patt Umrani and secured the swap. Earlier on Monday, Chotu’s gang had released three civilian abductees on receipt of Rs2 million ransom.

The LJ is one of the most dreaded extremist outfit accused of series of bomb blasts, suicide attacks and kidnapping for ransom.

It mainly targets members of Shia community and is believed to be responsible for massacre of Hazara community in Balochistan.

Opponents of Sharifs, in particular Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, blame them for links with the LJ and securing its support in elections. The LJ also has mutual cooperation arrangement with terrorist organisation, Tehrike-e-Taleban Pakistan.

The Punjab police hostages were released in the early hours of Tuesday morning at an agreed location. Later, the police presented the released men at a Press briefing.

Besides releasing three of Chotu’s men, known to be members of LJ, the police also agreed to remove pickets from some river Indus islands and all but handed over the entire Kacha area to the bandits.

The bandits refused to return the weapons (12 guns) they grabbed from the policemen when they overran the pickets.

Police said their prime objective had been securing the release of the eight officials. They insisted that no other demand made by Chotu Mazari had been fulfilled. But Chotu Mazari left a warning for the police. The released hostages said he had warned against any police interference in the Kacha area.

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