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Pakistan: Islamic State Bid To Expand In Country Foiled

Pakistan's top military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa at a news conference on September 1.

Pakistan's top military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa at a news conference on September 1.

Pakistan says it has halted the Islamic State (IS) group’s attempts to expand in the country, arresting hundreds of people involved in plotting attacks on government, diplomatic, and civilian targets.

The military's top spokesman, Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa, said on September 1 that authorities have arrested 309 people associated with the extremist group.

The comments were a rare acknowledgment by a senior Pakistani official that IS militants have had an active presence in the country.

Bajwa said most of those detained were established Pakistani militants who had switched loyalties to the IS group, but some 25 were foreigners including Afghans and Syrians.

Some were involved in assaults on the media.

Of a core group of 20 organizers, Bajwa said, all were captured, except one "who I am sure is not in Pakistan."

He added that IS fighters were still present in the Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Khost, and Kunar, which lie along the border with Pakistan.

The leader of the IS group's branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hafiz Saeed Khan, was killed in an air strike in July in a border region between the two countries.

Islamabad Rejects U.S. Complaints

Bajwa also rejected U.S. criticism that it was not doing enough in the fight against extremist groups.

Pakistan is pursuing an "indiscriminate operation" against all militants, the country's top military spokesman, he said.

"There is no concept of good or bad Taliban," he added.

Bajwa made the comments a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that, despite some progress in recent months, Pakistan "has work to do in order to push harder against its indigenous groups that are engaged in extremist activities," including the Taliban-linked Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The United States accuses Pakistan's intelligence agency of supporting Haqqani militants and using them as proxies in Afghanistan to gain leverage there against the growing influence of India.

Pakistan denies this.

Pakistan's army has launched military operations in North Waziristan, where the Haqqani network is based.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP