Pakistan Army launches aerial operation against gangster Chottu, 40 members surrender
Lahore: Seven Pakistani policemen were among 13 killed and 22 others were taken hostage by a notorious gang during a police raid to clear their island hideout in Punjab province, forcing the government to use aerial strikes to end the 9-day standoff.
The operation involving 1,600 security officials, including police officials and paramilitary rangers, were engaged in a pitched battle to take control of the island.
“At least seven policemen, mostly Elite Force commandos have been killed so far and 22 cops taken into hostages in the operation against Chottu gang in Rajanpur district, some 400 km from Lahore,” said Ghulam Mubashir Maken, senior police officer who is spearheading the operation codenamed ’Zarb-e-Aahan’.
There were thirteen gangsters killed in the standoff, Maken informed.
The gangsters belong to Bakrani clan of Mazari tribe of Rojhan area. They are concealing in a forest in an island in Indus River area between Rajanpur and Rahim Yar Khan of the province. Ghulam Rasool alias Chottu, who heads the gang, carries a huge bounty on his head.
Meanwhile, the operation Zarb-e-Ahan entered in decisive phase today as Pakistan Army has taken control of the area while 40 members of the gang have surrendered. The Pakistan Army has launched a ground and aerial offensive for the recovery of police personnel held hostage by the gangsters.
Around 1000 soldiers of Pakistan Army and 500 Rangers personnel are participating in the operation. The forces have sealed the area and imposed curfew in four kilometres.
In a broadcast message, Chottu has called police to end the operation and vacate the region. He has also demanded the release of his arrested gang members otherwise he will kill the hostages one by one.
A police official involved in the operation said that the furious demand put up by the gangsters displayed that some terrorists of banned organisations might be present in the area. The suspected elements of banned outfits of Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi (LeJ) and Sipah Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) might be the part of the gang, he said.
The police officials are forced to use aerial attack on the hideouts of the gangsters to achieve significant success. Now, the police have decided to use air power to soften the target before mounting a ground operation.
The Punjab government has requested the Pakistan Army to deploy two helicopter gunships for air raids and two helipads have been set up in the Kacha Sounmiani area for this purpose.
Over 100 gangsters associated with the Chottu gang have 54 cases of murders, dacoities and kidnapping registered against it in police stations across south Punjab.