Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lone gunman holds capital hostage for five hours - The News International

ISLAMABAD: A lone gunman, identified as Sikandar, kept the federal capital hostage for over five hours on Thursday evening, exposing the lack of preparedness of the Islamabad Police against terror attacks.

The delayed action of the police to arrest the gunman raised many questions while the media captured every bit of the drama.

After five hours of police inaction, the drama ended when the Pakistan People's Party's (PPP) leader Zamurrad Khan, who was negotiating with the gunman, put his life at risk and made an unsuccessful attempt to grab the gunman. His action separated Sikandar from his children and wife, which resulted in his arrest. The gunman fired at Zamurrad Khan but he remained safe. Millions of people witnessed the scene on TV when the gunman fired at Zamurrad Khan while a senior police officer hid himself beneath a white Suzuki car to save his life.

The gunman was injured when the police retaliated. The injured gunman was shifted to the PIMS hospital. Dr Waseem Khawaja, spokesman for PIMS hospital, said his condition was serious.

"It would have been easy to shoot the gunman but we wanted to arrest him without bloodshed," Inspector General of Police (IGP), Sikandar Hayat, told The News when he was earlier contacted.The incident took place on the Jinnah Avenue, a few yards away from the Red Zone and the Constitution Avenue housing then most-sensitive buildings.

Well-placed sources in the police disclosed that a person who was driving the car before the clash with the police managed to escape from the scene. The driver who escaped was identified as Mohammad Amjad.

The gunman, equipped with a Kalashnikov and Sub-Machine Gun (SMG), is a resident of Hafizabad. He demanded removal of the democratic government and enforcement of the Sharia Law in the country and asked for safe passage for him and his family, who according to him were all ready to sacrifice their lives.

Besides the gunman, there were two minors and his wife Kanwal in the black Corolla car. Rangers, police commandos and snipers cordoned off the area but the police failed to overpower the gunman for well over five hours.

The confident-looking gunman smoked cigarettes, consumed energy drinks and bottled mineral water while the police remained a silent spectator after cordoning off the crime scene. At times, the gunman would fire shots in the air like a trained shooter while he was also heard hurling abuses at the media and other people who watched him making fun of the security in the capital city.

SSP (Operation) Dr Rizwan negotiated thrice with the gunman but he refused to surrender. He kept warning the police authorities to keep the police commandos away or he would open fire at them.

The incident occurred when the Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) intercepted the gunman on the 7th Avenue for overspeeding but he opened fire at the ITP team after an exchange of harsh wards and sped away from the wrong side of the road towards the Kalsum Chowk. The policemen chased the car bearing registration number RLD-1705, the witnesses said adding that while escaping the gunman hit the ITP vehicle and stopped in the middle of the Jinnah Avenue near Kalsum Plaza. The gunman fired in the air and warned the police to keep away.

The sources said that the gunman directed the driver not to stop the car if the police intercepted him. The police said that he came to Islamabad on Sunday along with his wife and two kids and stayed at the New Islamabad Global Hotel at Aabpara.

Mohammad Sikandar, son of Mohammad Maalik, hailing from Hafizabad, remained in the UAE for over 25 years, the police sources said. He was deported from Dubai in 1990 but he again went there on a different passport. He returned nine months back, the sources added.

The people engaged in the investigation of the case believe that he and his wife are trained and hardened criminals and are linked with a terrorist outfit. The police authorities believed he used his wife and children to hit a high profile target in the Red Zone.

Kanwal looked more confident than her husband and negotiated with the police authorities. She demanded white papers and pen from the police and submitted demands in writing to the police.

Meanwhile, parliamentary leader of the Pakistan People's Party in the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani said he was surprised that neither the interior minister nor the information minister felt it necessary to tell the nation what was going on in the federal capital.

Talking to The News, he said even the IG Islamabad Police was not seen anywhere. He said the incident left grave question marks on the security policy of the government. "The people want to know how the security of a sensitive area was breached," he added. He said the opposition would take up this issue in the coming session of the Senate.

The senator saluted the bravery and courage of the PPP leader Zamarrud Khan. He said Zamarrud Khan had given a clear message that the nation was not afraid of terrorists and was united in the fight against them.

Meanwhile, Pakistan People's Party's (PPP) leader Zamurrad Khan told the Geo News that he had planned at his home a strategy to capture the gunman. He said when he reached the scene and told the SSP and other police officials about his plan, they warned him about the repercussions of this action as they believed that the gunman's car was full of explosives. He said he decided to take the risk and tried to capture the gunman after meeting his children.President Asif Ali Zardari has appreciated the courageous attempt made by Zamurrad Khan.
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