RAJANPUR: The Chhotu Gang released four injured police officers while 18 are still in their custody.
An operation against the gang holed up in the Punjab riverine area entered its seventeenth day today.
At least two officers were killed, three injured and 22 taken in custody as law enforcers clashed with the heavily armed gangsters on Wednesday.
After police officers were held hostage the operation was suspended. Punjab IG Mushtaq Sukhera said that recovering the 18 policemen held hostage was their first priority.
Police is currently in talks with tribal leaders of the area to recover the policemen held hostage.
It was learnt that two boats carrying 42 policemen advanced on positions of the dacoits who fired at them. SHO Hanif Ghauri, Head Constable Ajmal, constables Tanvir, Ubaidullah alias Fahim, Amanullah, Zabihullah were killed. Four injured policemen were shifted to the Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Rahim Yar Khan, while 25 including DSP Asif Rasheed, SI Abid, Shafi Elahi were among the hostages. DSP Mujahid is reported missing.
The IGP-led Operation Zarb-e-Aahan has been suspended till the formulation of a new strategy. Rajanpur DPO Ghulam Mubashir Mekan said around 200 criminals had rendered the 30-kilometre island-like area into a no-go area. They are armed with sophisticated weapons.
Ghulam Rasool alias Chhotu talked to the DG Khan RPO using a wireless set snatched from the police, and listed the names of hostages. He demanded police lift their siege, or they would kill hostages one by one.
Police say that members of Chotu Gang are equipped with sophisticated weapons and also supported by banned outfits.
Over 1600 police officers from seven districts are taking part in this operation.