Taliban increasingly taking shelter in Karachi: report

"It is clear that fighters from multiple Taliban factions are increasingly moving to the city," said the article in the latest issue of CTC Sentinel of the Combating Terrorism Centre of the US Military Academy.

"Militants continue to flee US drone strikes and Pakistani military operations in the country's northwest tribal regions. In fact, two months ago news reports speculated that Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar himself shifted his base from Quetta to Karachi," wrote Imtiaz Ali, author of the article.

Between late October and early November last year, Karachi police arrested over 450 illegal foreign residents, mostly Afghan and Uzbek citizens suspected of having links with militants.
Moreover, 70 militants with access to suicide jackets, rocket launchers and other explosives were arrested in the closing months of 2009, it said.

"Taliban fighters and other militant groups have long considered Karachi a safe location because it is unlikely the city would ever face a major military operation or drone attacks. Such a development could cause huge political and economic fallout and the ultimate destabilisation of Pakistan," Ali wrote.

Since the early 1990s, the article said Karachi has been a safe haven for leaders of several militant groups such as Harkat-ul-Mujahidin, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al- Islam, Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, Jaysh-i-Muhammad, Lashkar -e-Tayyiba and lately Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
Al-Qaeda operatives have also been found in the city, seen through the arrest of Ramzi bin al-Shibh on September 11, 2002.
With US drone attacks proving to be one of the biggest challenges of al-Qaeda operatives and Taliban leaders, the article said, as a result, al-Qaeda and especially Taliban operatives find limiting their militant activities or shift to safer locations such as Quetta and Karachi as the only way to avoid such strikes.

According to local police officials in Karachi, TTP militants are heading in the city to seek shelter and rest as well as funding.
Karachi's municipal government, run by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement(MQM), has warned about possibility of Taliban taking control of the city.
There has been an alarming increase in bank robberies and kidnapping-for-ransom, both of which are considered major revenue generators for the Taliban, it said.
"There are also a rising number of incidences of Taliban militants threatening music and CD shop owners. In Pashtun- dominated areas such as Sohrab Goth and Baldia Town, walls and bridges carry graffiti such as 'Long Live the Taliban' and 'Welcome to the Taliban'.
"The Pashtun community denounces the Taliban and claims that the MQM is exaggerating the level of Taliban activity in Karachi for political reasons," the article said.

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