Karachi police have arrested a man they describe as an important commander in al Qaeda’s newly created South Asian wing, police said on Friday.
Police arrested Shahid Usman, in his mid-thirties, and four others in Karachi late on Thursday. They also seized weapons and 10kg of explosives.
Al Qaeda’s new South Asia wing, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, tried to hijack a Pakistan Navy ship in September this year, a few days after the group had announced its formation.
Police say Usman is the head of the al Qaeda wing in Karachi, a steamy port city of 18 million people, and was planning more attacks there.
“He is the Karachi chief of al Qaeda’s newly formed wing working under the set up of Asim Umar, the South Asia chief of al Qaeda,” a senior official at the police counter-terrorism unit said.
The official said Usman lived in Defence and owned a car-parts dealership in one of the city’s most expensive commercial areas. “Unlike the usual militant profile, Usman comes from an affluent background,” the police officer said.
Officials said Usman was previously associated with the outlawed Harkatul Jihad-al-Islami militant group, whose operational commander, Ilyas Kashmiri, was killed in a US drone strike in 2011 near the Afghan border. Usman had received training in Afghanistan, the police officer said.
The suspected terrorists were arrested from Lakri Gali, Old Haji Camp neighbourhood of the city, a police statement said, adding that the arrested men “operate al Qaeda’s network in the city” and were behind several “acts of terrorism”.
Al Qaeda announced the formation of its South Asian wing on Sept 4 with al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri promising to spread a holy war across South Asia, home to more than 400 million Muslims.