Foreign national held in connection with blast outside Hafiz Saeed's house
A foreign national has been arrested by Pakistani security agencies in connection with the car bomb blast outside the house of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind and chief of the banned Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Hafiz Saeed here, according to media reports on Friday.
The suspect identified as Peter Paul David was arrested from the Lahore airport on Thursday, the Dawn newspaper reported.
David was offloaded from a Karachi-bound flight and shifted to an undisclosed location for interrogation, Duniya TV reported.
He is said to be the owner of the car used in the blast, the Dawn report said.
David's travel history showed that he had been shuttling between Karachi, Lahore and Dubai frequently, while he could not satisfy the investigators about the purpose of these visits and his activities, the report said.
Three persons were killed and 21 others injured when a powerful car bomb exploded outside Saeed's residence at the Board of Revenue (BOR) Housing Society in Johar Town on Wednesday morning, resulting in serious injuries to some police officers guarding the JuD chief's house. The windows and walls of Saeed's house were damaged from the impact of the blast.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blast so far.
The law enforcement agencies were also on the lookout for another suspect who is said to have driven the explosives-laden car to the targeted location, the report said.
Since being stolen in 2010 from Gujranwala in Punjab province, the car used in the blast had been sold further multiple times and David was its last owner, according to initial investigations.
An official said intelligence agencies traced the location of the owner of the car through its registration record obtained from the excise department and then arrested David from the Lahore airport.
Quoting initial investigations, the official said the car entered Lahore from Babu Sabu interchange a few hours before the blast where police personnel cleared the vehicle and the driver after checking.
He added that there were conflicting reports about whether the car was carrying explosives at the time or not. However, there was a strong possibility that it was fitted with explosives inside Lahore and then driven to Johar Town.
CCTV footage showed a masked suspect parking the car at the corner of a street near the residence of the JuD chief around 10:40 am on Wednesday. He got out of the car and then disappeared, the official said, adding that the blast occurred around 11:10 am. Reportedly, the suspect had carried out the blast with a timed device.
Footage later showed that the driver was picked up from a petrol pump nearby by an accomplice in a car and they drove off, the official said.
He added that during interrogation, David denied his involvement in the blast. He told the investigators that during his last visit to Dubai, a friend of his said someone he (the friend) knew in Gujranwala needed his (David's) car for a couple of days.
When he returned to Pakistan, he handed over the car to a masked man in Gujranwala, David said, adding that he thought the man was wearing the mask because of the COVID-19 situation.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed claimed that Punjab police were close to arresting the culprits responsible for the blast in Lahore.
In a video statement posted on Twitter on Thursday, the minister claimed that officials had achieved great success during the investigation.
Punjab police will soon arrest the culprits and deliver good news to the people, he said.
Three unidentified terrorists have been named in the FIR in the case.
The 71-year-old Saeed has been serving a jail sentence at the high-security Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore for his conviction in terror financing cases.
The blast sparked rumours that Saeed was present in the house. Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist whom the US has placed a USD 10 million bounty on, has been convicted for 36 years imprisonment in five terror financing cases. His punishment is running concurrently.
Saeed-led JuD is the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.
The US Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. He was listed under the UN Security Council Resolution 1267 in December 2008.