Pakistan agencies probing Karachi University blast suspect presence of more female BLA suicide bombers

A police officer stands guard near a passenger van, cordoned after a blast at the entrance of the Confucius Institute University of Karachi (Reuters)

KARACHI/LAHORE: Pakistani investigators probing the suicide attack by a woman at the Karachi University that killed three Chinese teachers have not ruled out the presence of more female suicide bombers at sleeper cells of the outlawed Baluchistan Liberation Army, even as police in Lahore have arrested a suspect from Punjab University in connection with the bombing.
On Tuesday, an explosion triggered by a burqa-clad woman suicide bomber from the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) ripped through a van of the Confucius Institute at the prestigious University of Karachi, leaving three Chinese teachers dead and one injured, in the latest targeted attack against Chinese citizens in Pakistan.
Following the incident, the banned BLA took to social media to claim responsibility and announce that the bomber was a woman named Shaari Baloch who was highly educated, a mother of two young children, belonging to a well-established family and working as a school teacher in her native Turbat, Balochistan.
The Anti-Terrorism Department of the Sindh Police also identified the bomber who was born in Turbat in 1991 but settled in Kech district of the restive Baluchistan province. “Initial investigations confirmed she was part of the banned Majeed brigade, a part of the BLA which has brainwashed these suicide bombers,” an official of the Anti-Terrorism Department said.
“We are looking into possiblities that there might be more female suicide bombers brainwashed to become part of the Majeed Brigade and waiting in sleeper cells,” he said. He confirmed that initial investigations had shown that Shari Baloch did not carry out the attack independently and was guided and helped by her handlers/facilitators, including a woman who met her at the entrance of the university and apparently briefed her before she went to the entrance of the Confucius Institute where she detonated herself as soon as the coaster van carrying the Chinese academics came.
“We suspect this operation was carried out with inside information,” the official said. On Wednesday, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Punjab Police have arrested a suspect from Lahore’s Punjab University in connection with the suicide bombing at the Karachi University.
The intelligence agencies tracked down a suspect with whom Shari Baloch remained in contact by cellphone in Lahore and arrested him during a raid at a hostel of the Punjab University, a source in CTD told PTI on Thursday.
The suspect has been identified as Bebagr Imdad, a student of the seventh semester of English Literature in Numl, Islamabad. He also belongs to the area where Shaari Baloch lived. “The agencies are picking up all those who remained in contact with Shaari before she blew herself up and Bebagr was one of them,” he said.
A Punjab University spokesperson Khurram Shahzad told PTI that Bebagr had come to Lahore two days ago from Islamabad.
“On Tuesday, he visited his cousin at hostel 7 who is a history department student. On Wednesday, a security agency official approached the varsity administration and told it that it needed to take Bebagr into custody for his alleged link with the Karachi University bombing. The Punjab University obliged the request and now he is being interrogated,” Shehzad said. Some 300 students from Balochistan are currently studying at the Punjab University.
The security agencies are now searching for the husband of Shari Baloch, Dr Haibatan, who was apparently doing a public health course at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) and was staying at a nearby hotel. However, his wife lived in Gulistan-i-Jauhar with her two children.
Counter-Terrorism Department official Raja Umar Khatab said that Shari Baloch and her husband had left their places a week before the attack and the husband’s whereabouts were not known. Raids were being carried out to find the husband and other facilitators, he said. The CTD official also made it clear that Shari Baloch was not a student at the KU and in fact had done her BE and ME from the University of Balochistan and had also worked as a government teacher.
The officer said that the outlawed BLA had claimed responsibility for the attack and shared details about the attacker on their social media platforms. “We also suspect the involvement of a hostile foreign agency in this attack,” he said.
Meanwhile, the members of Baloch Student Council at Punjab University held a demonstration outside the varsity and demanded release of Bebagr. They said the “abduction of Bebagr” was part of ongoing disappearances and harassment of the Baloch students in the country. They said they would continue their protest till the release of Bebagr from the agencies’ custody.
The suicide bombing at the Karachi University seems to be the harbinger of a ‘new and unexpected dimension’ in the dynamics of terrorism in Pakistan, particularly the Baloch insurgency.
Meanwhile, Additional Police Surgeon at the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Hospital Dr Summaiya Syed said that the four people who were injured in the bomb blast, including a fourth Chinese teacher, Wang Yuqing, are out of danger.
Those killed in the suicide bombing included three Chinese faculty members and their Pakistani driver, Khalid Nawaz.
In the FIR lodged about the incident by SHO Basharat Hussain, the BLA Majeed Brigade militant commanders Bashir Zaib and Rehman Gul and others were involved in the attack. The FIR says the BLA wanted to undermine relations between Pakistan and China and get publicity for their outlawed outfit through terrorist acts, the FIR added.
The security forces on Thursday raided the house of the father of the bomber in a society located in Karachi’s Scheme 33. Laptops and other evidence, including documents, were seized during the raid.
The Security agencies in Balochistan on Wednesday also searched the apartment of the suicide bomber in Gulistan-e-Johar and sealed it afterwards. The apartment was rented and the bomber had been living there for the last three years.
The Karachi University reopened for the first time on Thursday after the suicide attack. The university’s spokesperson said that administrative affairs and the teaching process in the university will continue as usual. However, the Confucius Institute will remain closed until clearance from the Chinese embassy.
Newly-appointed Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited the Chinese embassy in Islamabad shortly after he took charge on Wednesday. Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb told a press conference that the government was reviewing the National Action Plan against terrorism and would bring the perpetrators of the Karachi bombing to justice.
China has demanded stern action against the militant organisations behind the attack. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin during a media briefing asked Pakistan to scale-up security for its nationals working in the country and demanded a thorough investigation and punishment to the perpetrators behind the suicide attack.
The attack that too by a woman suicide bomber from BLA, which is vocally opposing the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), sent shock waves in China as it highlights deep rooted opposition to Chinese projects. Balochistan, bordering Iran and Afghanistan, is home to a long-running violent insurgency. Baloch insurgent groups have previously carried out several attacks targeting the CPEC projects.
Thousands of Chinese personnel are working in Pakistan on a host of projects being carried out under the aegis of the CPEC.

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