DERA GHAZI KHAN/LAHORE: The Army has given the Chotoo gang until 2pm on Monday (today) to surrender unconditionally and release hostages, police officials speaking on condition of anonymity told Dawn.
In case they refuse to abide by the deadline, the Army will begin a full-scale operation, the official added.
Corps Commander Multan has reached Rajanpur to supervise the operation, the official said, adding that an emergency has been imposed in hospitals in Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan and Rajanpur.
A senior police officer associated with the operation told Dawn that Ghulam Rasool, alias Chotoo, had been putting pressure on the families of policemen in his captivity to hold protests calling for an end to the operation against the gang.
“He threatened to start killing the captives one by one in case of non-compliance,” the official said.
At least 6 policemen were killed and 24 others taken hostage by the gang when the operation was launched less than a week ago.
Dawn quoted a well-placed source on Monday saying that the gang had released some of the hostages, but the source was unable to say how many had been freed.
The senior police official said the gangsters had called the family members of each captive from different phone numbers.
The families reached Jampur on Saturday, blocking the Indus Highway for traffic in protest, demanding safe recovery of their loved ones from captivity, he said, adding that the protesters were dispersed after senior Army and police officials negotiated with them, assuring them of the safe return of the captive policemen.
The Interior Ministry gave security forces the go-ahead to launch a military operation against the hardened criminals of Rajanpur’s Rojhan tehsil, Dawn reported on April 13.
The ground operation was halted at the time in order to allow women, children and other people to evacuate the island, a move taken in order to prevent collateral damage, a senior police official had said.
Know more: Air strikes ordered on Rajanpur gangsters
Policemen killed, taken hostage
At least six police officials were killed and 24 others taken hostage as they launched an offensive against the Rajanpur gangsters, Dawn reported on April 14. At least seven gangsters were also killed during the riverine operation on the island bordering Sindh and Balochistan.
Read more: Six cops killed, 27 taken hostage in Rajanpur operation against bandits
A senior police official told Dawn that police forces lacked proper equipment, weapons and boats to launch an assault on the island, and that local police forces were not adequately trained or equipped to conduct amphibious operations in riverine areas.
Also read: ‘Police suffered losses due to lack of planning by high-ups’
Army joins operation
Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa announced on April 16 that army troops were being deployed in the kacha areas and had taken charge of the Rajanpur operation, Zarb-i-Ahan.
He said a cordon was being reinforced and police and Rangers had already been deployed to participate in the operation under the Army.
Courtesy : Dawn News