MULTAN: Security forces raided a militant hideout in the country’s east before dawn Tuesday, killing two members of the Islamic State group linked to the 2011 al Qaida abduction of American development worker Warren Weinstein, a senior counter-terrorism official said.
Weinstein, who was taken from the city of Lahore, was accidentally killed in a US drone strike in 2015 on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
In a statement, Rai Tahir of the Punjab counter-terrorism department identified the two militants as Adeel Hafeez and Usman Haroon. He said both were killed during an intense shootout in the raid in the eastern city of Faisalabad in Punjab province.
Tahir claimed that both militants also played a role in the 2013 abduction of former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s son, Ali Haider, who was rescued in Afghanistan by US forces in 2016.
Many former al Qaida militants are thought to have joined the regional IS affiliate, which emerged a few years ago, around the time the group was at the height of its caliphate in Iraq and Syria. IS has since lost nearly all the territory it once controlled in the two Mideast countries.
Tahir, the counter-terrorism official, said the Pakistani officers had foiled other attacks the pair had plotted. The two were also behind the killing of two Pakistani intelligence officers in recent years and in some other high-profile crimes, he added.
He provided no specific information about the role the two had in Weinstein’s case. The American worker’s accidental death was announced by Washington in 2015. President Barack Obama at the time said he takes full responsibility for U.S. counterterror missions and offered his condolences to families of the hostages.
After the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, Washington aggressively targeted militant hideouts in neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistani tribal regions, killing local and foreign militants. Pakistan considers US drone strikes a violation of its sovereignty, while the US accuses Pakistan of providing safe havens for militants.
Pakistan has always denied the charge, saying it acts against militants without discrimination.