LAHORE (Reuters) - Pakistani security forces have arrested a man they believe is the commander of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in the country as well as two accomplices involved in recruiting and sending fighters to Syria, intelligence sources said on Wednesday.
Authorities in South Asia are concerned about the rise of the terrorist group in a region already beset by home-grown insurgencies fighting to topple local governments and set up strict Islamic rule.
Three intelligence sources, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the man, Yousaf al-Salafi, was arrested in the eastern city of Lahore and confessed during interrogation that he represented ISIS in Pakistan.
"Al-Salafi is a Pakistani Syrian who reached Pakistan through Turkey five months ago," said one source. "He crossed into Turkey from Syria and was caught there. Somehow he managed to escape and reached Pakistan to establish ISIS." The account could not be independently verified.
The source said one of his accomplices, Hafiz Tayyab, was a prayer leader in Lahore and was involved in recruiting Pakistanis and sending them to fight alongside ISIS in Syria, charging ISIS about US$600 (S$750.18) per person.
Rifts among the Taleban and disputes about the future of the insurgency have contributed to the rise of ISIS's popularity but security sources believe there are no operational links yet between ISIS and South Asia.
Disgruntled former Taleban commanders have formed the so-called Khorasan chapter - an umbrella ISIS group covering Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and other South Asian countries - in recent months but have not been involved in any fighting.
Their leader, Hafiz Saeed Khan Orakzai, a former Pakistani Taleban commander, appeared in a video address this month urging people in the region to join the group.