Islamabad: Pakistan's military on Friday said it had foiled a prison break bid aimed at freeing British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, currently on death row for the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Three militants groups — Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — were working together on the plot, military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said, adding that the plan to attack Hyderabad Central Jail was close to execution.
Bajwa told a Karachi press conference: "A deputy leader of Al-Qaeda in the Subcontinent named Mussanah was mastermind of the plan and was arranging all the finances while he was aided by the deputy chief of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Naeem Bukhari."
Mussanah, Bukhari, and a man said to be their handler, named Huzaifa, were later paraded before the media in handcuffs.
Bajwa said the perpetrators had prepared two explosive-laden vehicles which they were supposed to ram into the gate of the prison.
He added the plotters had a list of prisoners that they were supposed to kill after gaining access to the jail, while rescuing around 100 prisoners including Sheikh.
He added the same cell was behind major terrorist incidents across the country including the 2014 siege of Karachi airport, as well as attacks on a naval base, air base, and intelligence headquarters in the cities of Multan and Sukkur.
Pearl, 38, was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted and beheaded in Karachi in 2002, while researching a story about Islamist militants.
A graphic video showing Pearl's decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in the city nearly a month later.
British-born extremist Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by an anti-terror court, while three other co-accused received life imprisonment.
One of them was acquitted in 2014.
In January 2011, a report released by the Pearl Project at Georgetown University in the US following an investigation into his death made chilling revelations when it claimed that the wrong men were convicted for Pearl's murder.
The investigation, led by Pearl's friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague Asra Nomani and a Georgetown University professor, claimed the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged brains behind the September 11 2001 attacks, not Sheikh.
Self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and is being held in Guantanamo Bay.