Woman held after encounter in Lahore went to Syria for training

LAHORE/HYDERA­BAD: A medical student from Hyderabad who was arrested after her husband was killed in an encounter in Lahore on Friday night had visited Syria after leaving her home in February to join the militant Islamic State (IS) group.

According to sources, Naureen Leghari, a student of the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, who is being interrogated by law enforcement agencies, came to Lahore about three weeks ago and was being tracked by security personnel. She had also received training in Syria for using weapons, the sources said.

She had reportedly been contacted by militants through social media.

Ali Tariq of Bedian Road, Lahore, whom she had married after leaving her home and joining the militants, was killed in the encounter in the Punjab Housing Society. Four security personnel were injured during the shootout.

Security personnel found her college card and her father’s computerised national identity card from their hideout and reportedly contacted her family in Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, Sindh police contacted their counterparts in Punjab on Sunday to confirm the detained woman’s identity.

She was being interrogated about the modus operandi of the militant network and other people associated with it, the sources said.

Talking to Dawn, Sindh police chief A.D. Khowaja said: “We are in touch with Punjab police to get an official word from them and then we will share facts with the media. I have just spoken to Hyderabad range DIG Khadim Rind in this regard.

“We had been suspecting that Naureen Leghari had been radicalised by some elements.”

According to sources, the Senior Superintendent of Police, Hyderabad, Irfan Baloch, also spoke to officials of the Counter-Terrorism Department in Lahore, “but nothing was confirmed to him officially by CTD officials since the ISPR is involved in the matter”.

Lahore police also arrested Hafeez, the owner of the house where the encounter took place, and a property dealer, Ayub, and were conducting raids to arrest Azeem, a facilitator of the militants who is said to be a leader of the IS. The law enforcement agencies had announced Rs1million head money for his arrest.

The woman’s father Dr Jabbar Leghari had lodged a report with Hussainabad police in Hyderabad that she had been kidnapped.

Hyderabad police investigation reportedly showed that she might have joined a banned group and travelled to Lahore by bus. They also arrested a rickshaw driver who had dropped her at a bus station.

The law enforcement agencies have arrested four people suspected of being linked with the IS network in the city.

The CTD registered a case against the three arrested militants on charges including terrorism, murder and attempted murder.

In Hyderabad, the family of Naureen were reluctant to share any information with the media.

Her father, who is a teacher at the Sindh University, had switched off his cell phone.

However, his son Afzal Leghari spoke to reporters and said that neither Punjab nor Hyderabad police had confirmed anything to the family regarding Naureen’s arrest.

“Although nothing is confirmed, my father says she may be Naureen. He is travelling and is only talking to us intermittently. He has switched off his cell phone because of frequent calls from inquisitive journalists,” Afzal told Dawn.

The woman’s father had claimed at a press conference that she had been kidnapped on Feb 10 when she left for the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, and “is being kept somewhere in Hyderabad”. He also led a protest demonstration along with Sindh University teachers’ representatives.

Police had reportedly told the family that she had travelled to Lahore by bus from Latifabad and showed them her ticket booked by phone.

The Sindh University Teachers Association’s general secretary Arfana Mallah said she had spoken to Jabbar Leghari after the news about the arrest broke on Saturday but he was unaware of the development at that time.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2017