Taliban militants killed Musharraf’s commando aide


LAHORE: The Pakistani authorities investigating the November 19, 2008 murder of Major General (r) Ameer Faisal Alvi, the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the elite Special Services Group of (SSG) of the Pakistan Army, by two unidentified gunmen in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, do not rule out the possibility of the involvement of pro-Taliban militants against whom the officer had been carrying out military operation in the Waziristan region.

Once considered close to General Pervez Musharraf, Major General Faisal Alvi was the first General Officer Commanding of the elite Special Services Group, and had also commanded the elite Group as a Brigadier. The first Pakistani Major General to have captained the Armed Forces Skydiving Team (AFST) as a GOC, Faisal Alvi was forcibly retired from the Army on disciplinary grounds ‘for conduct unbecoming’ by then Army Chief General Musharraf in August 2005. Authorities involved in the murder investigations point the finger of suspicion at the Taliban-linked elements, saying Alvi had been involved in several military operations conducted by the SSG commandos in the trouble stricken Waziristan region.

Major General Alvi was heading for his Islamabad officeon Wednesday when the unidentified gunmen stopped his car on Islamabad Highway in the Koral police precincts. They shot at him and his driver Tanveer and fled. Eight bullets hit Gen Alvi – three in the head, two in the neck and three in the chest. The driver had six bullet injuries including one in his head.

The investigators believe the murder has symbolic significance as Alvi used to be a high profile officer of the Special Services Group — an independent commando division of the Pakistan Army – which had carried out the bloody Operation Silence in Islamabad against the fanatic clerics of Lal Masjid and their followers. A group of 165 SSG commandos had stormed the Lal Masjid compound on July 10, 2007 and clashed with the extremists holed up in the huge complex of the Lal Masjid, killing hundreds of people including the rebel cleric Rasheed Ghazi, militants and students as well as ten highly trained SSG commandos, including a colonel – Haroonul Islam.

The investigators point out the pertinent fact that the SSG personnel have been the target of the suicide bombers ever since the Lal Masjid operation was carried out by the Karar Company of the SSG Brigade. In one such attack on September 13, 2007, they pointed out, an 18 year old human bomb exploded himself inside the Tarbela Ghazi mess, 100 km south of Islamabad, killing 22 highly trained SSG commandos and injuring dozens more. It later transpired that the bomber was actually the brother of a girl student from the Jamia Hafsa (the Lal Masjid-run seminary for the girls’ students in Islamabad) who was killed during the Lal Masjid operation.

Before the bloodshed, the Red Mosque had a reputation for radicalism, mostly attracting Islamic hardline students from North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and tribal areas where support for the Taliban and al-Qaeda is quite strong. The Red Mosque is located near the headquarters of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which helped train and fund the holy warriors to wage jehad in Jammu & Kashmir and Afghanistan. Much before the operation code named “Operation Silence” was launched by the Pakistan Army, the Lal Masjid had become known to the outer world as a centre of radical Islamic learning, housing thousands of male and female students in adjacent seminaries. Set in the leafy suburbs of Islamabad close to foreign embassies, nobody knew the extent to which the Red Mosque had become infested with hardcore militants.

As the Operation Silence began, the heavily armed militants holed up inside the Red Mosque Complex put up fierce resistance to the elite commandos of the SSG, leading to a long-drawn-out battle which lasted for nearly 36 hours of intense fire fights and frightening explosions. The SSG is the same elite unit of the Pakistan Army to which Musharraf himself belonged, and which was specially trained by the US Special Forces for carrying out covert operations and counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations across Pakistan, especially in the Pak-Afghan tribal belt.

Those investigating Alvi’s murder point out that the deceased commander had supervised “Operation Mountain Lion” which was carried out by American and British troops on the Pak-Afghan tribal belt. The Operation on the Pakistani side of the border was conducted with the help of the Special Services Group commandos in a bid to track down the fugitive al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. In one such military operation carried out in the Angoor Adda area of Waziristan in October 2003, a special SSG unit led by Faisal Alvi had reportedly killed 12 suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda militants and arrested 14 others.

At a subsequent media briefing, Alvi had stated: “Our guys are trying to flush out the militants. We are having problems actually flushing them out, because they are putting on very strong resistance. Some of those arrested appeared to be from Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime. Most of the guys we encountered so far are foreigners hailing from different nationalities. You see those guys sitting under the tree, those prisoners we have taken, they are all foreigners and we have four dead foreigners lying here. The dead and most of the prisoners appear to be Arab nationals”.

A large cache of arms and basic surveillance equipment was also seized from the rebel compounds”, said Alvi, the commander of the operation while showing the weapons to reporters and giving details. “You see a machine gun, you see AK-47s, you see a rocket launcher, you see anti-tank mines, you see explosives, you see grenades, all have been recovered from one house. There is a great possibility that these people could have been involved in the attacks across the border on the coalition forces and have launched those attacks”, he had further stated. The authorities probing the murder are of the view that by assassinating Faisal Alvi, the Taliban-linked militants might have extended out an emblematic message to those who they believe are fighting someone else’s war thrust upon them against fellow Muslim brethren.


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