Pakistani security forces have captured the leader of an al Qaeda suicide cell that was behind the attack on the Sargodha military base last fall. Ahsan al Haq and five cell members have been detained by Pakistani security forces in the city of Lahore, Reuters reported.
“We recovered explosives and jackets used for suicide bombings at his house next to a madrassa (Islamic school),” and anonymous intelligence official told Reuters. “All of them admitted they were behind the Sargodha attack and were planning to carry out similar attacks, even against politicians.”
Al Haq, a retired Pakistani Army major, “was said have been close to Afghan Muslim guerrilla commander Younis Khalis, who battled Soviet forces in the 1980s and later had links with the Taliban,” Reuters reported. “Haq ran a militant training camp in Afghanistan during Taliban rule.”
The Sargodha attack targeted a bus carrying military personnel on the air base. Eight were killed and 27 wounded in the strike. Four military officers were among those killed.
The Sargodha Air Force Base is a nuclear weapons and missile storage facility in central Punjab province. The Taliban and al Qaeda have conducted multiple strikes on or near Pakistani nuclear facilities, as well as against military and police facilities situated near nuclear facilities. There have been two suicide attacks at Sargodha since the summer of 2007.
The report of Ahsan al Haq’s arrest may explain the recent report of the capture Dr. Amin al Haq, the leader of Osama bin Laden’s security detail. Dr. Amin al Haq was also reported to have been captured in Lahore, and was a close associate of the late Younis Khalis. The Nation reported Dr. Amin al Haq was captured on Jan. 6, but this information has yet to be confirmed. It appears The Nation may have confused the two jihadis.
Pakistan has a poor record in keeping al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and operatives in jail. Most recently, Rashid Rauf, the al Qaeda leader behind the foiled London airline bomb plot, escaped from custody. Rauf escaped in mid-December 2007 with the help of two policemen as he was transferred from court to his jail cell.
The Pakistani government released former Taliban defense minister Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, along with Amir Khan Haqqani, two brothers of slain Taliban commander Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Usmani, and a cousin of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. They were release in mid-October in exchange for over 300 soldiers kidnapped in South Waziristan.
The Pakistanis also released Sufi Mohammed in late October. Sufi is one of the most dangerous Taliban leaders in the Northwest Frontier Province. He is the head of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law). He was responsible for sending over 10,000 fighters into Afghanistan to fight US forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. Time Magazine reported Sufi was released “in hopes that he can help calm the situation” in Swat and Shangla, the settled districts that the Taliban overran last fall.
The government released over 2,500 Taliban and al Qaeda operatives after the signing of the North Waziristan Accord in September 2006. Among those released was Ghulam Mustafa and Fazl-e-Raziq, both close aides to Osama bin Laden, former Taliban governor of Herat Khairullah Kherkhawa, and numerous Taliban commanders and foot soldiers.
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