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Karachi Central Jail: The next target of Al Qaeda?

“We pledge to God that we will spare no effort to free all our prisoners.”  An Islamic website posted a 22-minutes audio recording by al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, in July of 2013. Since then we have seen four successful jailbreaks, orchestrated by al-Qaeda, in Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. The Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have formed a new organization called “Ansar al Aseer” (supporters of prisoners) that is specifically designed to free prisoners and support their families.

List of jailbreaks by al-Qaida

Date

Freed

Dead/Injured

Location

2013-07-21

500

50+/unknown

Abu Ghraib and Taji, Iraq

2013-07-27

1,117

Unknown

Benghazi,Libya

2013-07-29

250

12/8

Dera Ismail Khan,Pakistan

2014-02-13

29

10/unknown

Sana'a, Yemen

All Al Qaeda linked jailbreaks follow a similar pattern from a single training manual. First, more than 100 fighters drive into town – usually in some kind of camouflage. Another 100 or more are deployed outside the town to prevent reinforcements from arriving and to allow the prisoners to escape via designated routes in buses.

Suicide bombers blast their way through the walls or the main gate of the prison and follow-up fighters kill any remaining guards. Using layout plans already in their possession, they make their way to the prominent militants first and then free the rest of the inmates. Finally, everyone makes an orderly exit.

Another common factor in all such jailbreaks is security guards paid by Al-Qaeda to provide information and support.

Central Jail, Karachi, home to many known Taliban and Al-Qaeda prisoners was put on high alert after security threats. Cell phone jammers were planted around the prison and additional convoys of police, rangers and armored cars were deployed. Sindh High Court transferred twenty high-profile trials outside Karachi due to the security threat.

The million-dollar question is: Why Central Jail Karachi?

According to the Wall street Journal, “The Pakistani Taliban have tightened their grip over the country's commercial hub (Karachi). TTP controls or dominates about 470 square miles of Karachi, or nearly a third of its area specially outskirts.”  In Taliban controlled areas, TTP has established itself by taxing residents and businesses and setting up courts in neighborhoods to resolve disputes.

Sohrab Goth, an area on the outskirts of Karachi, is a known haunt for the Taliban as well as Al-Qaeda. Sohrab Goth is also considered a “Safe haven” for militants and a “NO GO AREA” for law enforcement agencies.

The distance between Sohrab Goth and Central Jail Karachi is about 8 miles or 12.5 KM and travel time by car, in normal traffic conditions, is 11 minutes. In other words, the distance between the prison and a well-protected safe haven is just 11 minutes.

The frequent attacks on police and Rangers have become the new norm in Karachi.  Atleast 50 law enforcers were killed in targeted killings and bomb blasts since the beginning of 2014. After the murder of CID SP Chaudhry Aslam Khan, Police has “stopped” hot pursuit of members of TTP. Within areas considered TTP and Al-Qaeda strongholds, members of the police force do not venture out of police stations.

According NBC News “Security forces are struggling for their own safety as the Taliban increase the ferocity and nature of their attacks”

Karachi police and Rangers have shifted their focus from TTP/Al-Qaeda to the political victimization and extra judicial killing of political workers. Recently, Karachiites have witnessed in surge of police encounters. According to police and Rangers statistics ranging from January 27, 2014 to February 05, 2014, eighteen criminals have been killed in at least 47 encounters in the city. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the second largest political party in Sindh, has formally launched a nationwide protest against missing persons, brutal torture and extrajudicial killings of their workers by law enforcement agencies.

The question to ask is that can the highly politicized and demoralized police force prevent an attack on Karachi Central Jail by a powerful and organized enemy?  One can easily predict the outcome.

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