Pakistan raids schools linked to India base attack suspects

Indian security personnel stand guard outside the Air Force base at Pathankot in Punjab.
PHOTO: Reuters

LAHORE, Pakistan - Pakistani police have raided and shut down two religious schools linked to an Islamist group believed to be behind a fatal attack on an Indian air base earlier this month, officials said.

Punjab provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah told AFP that a madrassa, or religious school, affiliated with Jaish-e-Mohammad was raided and sealed off on Thursday, while a second one had already been shut down at the weekend.

"Islamic literature was also recovered from these madrassas, investigations are on going," he said, adding that a dozen suspects had been detained and are being questioned by police.

A spokesman for the counter-terrorism department in Punjab confirmed both the raids and detentions.

In a brief media statement, the spokesman said one of the schools, in a village in Punjab's Sialkot district, was suspected of ties including financial links to the banned organisation.

The January 2 assault on the Pathankot air base came just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian leader to visit Pakistan in 11 years, in a diplomatic outreach that had raised hopes of a softening in relations between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The attack was a rare instance of the targeting of an Indian military installation outside disputed Kashmir.

India says the assault, which left seven soldiers dead, was carried out by the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is based in Pakistan and was set up to fight Indian rule in Kashmir.

Pakistan banned the group in 2002, the year after it was blamed for an attack on the Indian parliament that took the two neighbours to the brink of war.

It arrested the group's leader in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, but he was later released.