Pakistan police kill leader of anti-Shia militant group

ISLAMABAD (TIP): Malik Ishaq, the dreaded chief of banned Sunni sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was gunned down along with his two sons and 11 others early on July 30 morning by police in an alleged exchange of fire in Punjab’s Muzaffargarh district.

While the exact circumstances of the killing remain unclear, police said the encounter took place following an attack on its convoy taking Ishaq and his sons to a detention centre. They were being taken to Shahwala in Muzaffargarh by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) to aid in the recovery of arms and explosives that it had seized allegedly from LeJ terrorists.

“As the police convoy was returning in wee hours on Wednesday, a group of militants on motorbikes ambushed it near Shahwala Jungle in an attempt to free Ishaq,” Shuja Khanzada, Punjab’s home minister, said. “Fourteen militants, including the LeJ chief and his sons, were killed in the battle, which ensued,” he said and added that at least six police officers were also injured.

Ishaq, his sons and three aides, were arrested last Saturday on suspicion of involvement in sectarian killings.

He had spent 13 years in police custody for more than 80 charges of sectarian killings. He was arrested in 1997 and after serving nearly 14 years in prison, released on bail in 2011. Observers believe that Ishaq, accused in over 70 criminal cases, was never successfully prosecuted. He walked free in December 2014 after a decision by the Lahore High Court. Analysts had called his release by court as a reflection of state’s weak judicial system.

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“He has faced several murder trials but always been acquitted after witnesses refused to testify against him,” said Nazrul Islam, political analyst.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a violent Sunni militant group that is said to be aligned with al Qaeda and Taliban, has been accused of killing hundreds of Shias after its emergence in the early 1990s. It had claimed responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of Shia Muslims, including two bombings in the western city of Quetta in early 2013 that had claimed lives of more than 200 people.

Ishaq was also accused of masterminding, from behind bars, the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, which wounded seven players and an assistant coach, and had left eight Pakistanis dead.

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