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Pakistan Investigating Suspected IS Militants

Pakistani suspects allegedly affiliated with the Islamic State group, wait to appear in the anti-terrorist court, in Gujranwala, Pakistan, on Dec. 29, 2015.

Pakistan says investigations are underway to determine whether a group of suspected militants in detention is linked to Islamic State.

Counterterrorism forces raided a suspected militant training center in eastern Sialkot city in Punjab province earlier this week, arresting 13 men along with weapons, IS propaganda material, laptops and communication equipment.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah Thursday said the raid demonstrated the government's resolve “not to tolerate even shadow of Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS]" in the country and reiterated there is no “footprint” of the group in Pakistan.

“You can see that our security agencies are alert to the threat. They have taken action and investigations are going on. But these are few individuals who have associated themselves with Daesh. There is no organized presence of this organization in Pakistan,” he told the weekly news conference in Islamabad.

Counterterrorism authorities citing an initial probe insisted the detainees were in contact with IS fighters in Syria and had facilitated travel of several Pakistani militants to the conflict-hit country.

“I am certainly not in a position to comment on who has left Pakistan and there intentions,” Khalilullah said directing reporters to the interior ministry for further questions.

Pakistan is fighting an Islamist insurgency led by a group of outlawed militant groups called Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Emergence of a new threat like IS, analysts say, could pose serious challenges to the country's war on terror.

Meanwhile, a senior regional police officer told VOA Thursday that information gleaned from the detainees have revealed at least 30 people, including women have left Pakistan for Syria since June.

Deputy Inspector General Operations for Lahore region, Hadier Ashraf, says most of them went from Punjab and some have contacted relatives to inform them they were in Syria and taking part in the conflict there.

Ashraf told VOA police have instituted 30 cases in anti-terrorism courts against these suspected terrorists believed to have gone abroad and further investigtion is underway.

He says most of the suspects traveled to the southwestern border province of Quetta from where they entered Iran for the onward journey to Syria and Iraq.