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27 police officials taken hostage by Chotoo gang

15 April, 2016

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LAHORE: At least six police officials have been killed, and 27 police officials taken hostage by gangsters in the ongoing law-enforcement operation to cleanse the riverine area of Rajanpur district in south Punjab.

Seven gangsters have also been killed in the ongoing operation.

A senior police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, lamented that police forces deployed in the operation, named Zarb-i-Ahan, lack proper equipment, weapons and boats to launch an assault on the island.

The operation to dislodge the gangsters is proving to be a tough nut to crack for local police forces, who lack the proper training and equipment to conduct amphibious operations in the riverine areas.

“We used two boats that we acquired privately from locals but we were attacked and lost six men, while 27 were taken hostage,” said the police official. He added that the driver of one of the boats was shot dead, during the sally launched by security forces towards the gangster-controlled island.

The police official also confirmed that police forces have been unable to secure the 20km-long piece of stretch. “They are getting continuous reinforcements from gangs in and around the area and forces have been unable to secure the area,” elaborated the police official.

While talking to reporters, commander of the bandits — Ghulam Rasool alias Chotoo — said he is “a supporter of Pak Amry and not a RAW agent”. Chotoo said he was left with no option but to make a criminal gang after fake cases were registered against him. He told media men that he is "willing to surrender but only in front of army".

In the absence of an effective cordon being established around the island, the gangsters will continue to be resupplied and reinforced. “Around 200 gangsters are still fighting against police forces.”

The police official blamed poor operational planning by the police department for the casualties sustained, and added the weapons being used by the gangsters are sophisticated modern arms, resulting in the attacking police force often being outgunned and outranged.

Punjab IG Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera, after attending the funeral of an elite force official, said the operation will continue till the elimination of all terrorists. “The whole nation is in a state of war against the terrorists,” he said.

It is a vast area over 35 kilometres and surrounded by water which gives an advantage to terrorists, he added.

Earlier, the Punjab Police had requested helicopter gunship support from Pakistan Army, but the support is yet to materialise.

Mushtaq Sukhera, the Punjab police chief, had visited frontline checkposts on Tuesday to review the operational strategy. He was accompanied by police officers from Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan, DPOs and senior officials of Rangers.

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