- Banned Sunni terror outfit LeJ chief Malik Ishaq, two sons and deputy Ghulam Rasool among 14 terrorists killed in ‘encounter’ with CTD sleuths in Muzaffargarh
- Police spokesman says 15 assailants freed Ishaq and his accomplices from CTD custody when they were returning after making weapons’ recovery in Shahwala area
- Claims dreaded LeJ chief and others were killed by bullets fired by their rescuers
Malik Ishaq, chief of banned Sunni terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, his two sons Usman and Haq Nawaz, his deputy Ghulam Rasool Shah and 10 others were killed in an alleged exchange of fire with police personnel late on Tuesday night.
At least six policemen were injured in the alleged encounter.
Ishaq and his sons were arrested by the Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department a week ago. Following their latest arrest, the police had interrogated them and had subsequently taken them to Shahwala in Muzaffargarh district to aid the police in recovering weapons and explosives, sources in the CTD said.
The encounter appears to have taken place as militants attacked security forces and tried to free Malik Ishaq who was killed in the ensuing exchange of fire, security sources say.
A spokesman for CTD Multan said Ishaq, his two sons, Ghulam Rasool Shah and two other accused, all from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, were taken to Muzaffargarh by the CTD for recovery of weapons and explosives.
“Three water coolers filled with explosives, detonators, Kalashnikov assault rifles, 12 pistols and four hand grenades were seized during the raid,” said the official.
The spokesman said that when the police party was returning after making the recovery, it was attacked by some 12 to 15 gunmen who succeeded in freeing Ishaq, his sons and the other accused and fleeing away on motorcycles.
The militants were reportedly met with by another police party who had been informed about the attack on the police party and was travelling on the route that the militants had taken, the spokesman said, adding that that’s how the encounter ensued.
The spokesman claimed that 14 militants, including Malik Ishaq and Ghulam Rasool Shah, were killed by the attackers’ firing. A large amount of weapons and ammunition was recovered from the site of the encounter and an investigation has been initiated into the events. He added that six assailants managed to escape the police cordon and fled.
“10 terrorists out of 14 who were killed belonged to al Qaeda,” a CTD spokesperson told Pakistan Today.
The CTD spokesman said that police had sought the aid of the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) and other departments for identification of the terrorists.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is regarded as the most extreme Sunni terror group in Pakistan and is accused of killing hundreds of Shias after its emergence in the early 1990s. The organisation is also said to have links with al Qaeda. The organisation was banned more than a decade ago by former president Pervez Musharraf.
Ishaq, who is a leader of the feared organisation, has been implicated in dozens of cases, mostly murder. He was arrested in 1997 and is implicated in dozens of cases. He was released on bail in July 2011 after serving a jail term of nearly 14 years.
Since his 2011 release he has been frequently put under house arrest as his sermons raised sectarian tensions. He was also arrested in 2013 over deadly sectarian attacks targeting the Hazara Shia community in Quetta. The first attack took place on Jan 10, 2013 targeting a Hazara snooker hall and killing 92 people and the second bomb attack occurred on Feb 16, killing 89 people. The attacks were claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
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 killed eight Pakistanis.
The attacks saw Pakistan stripped of its right to co-host the 2011 cricket World Cup and jeopardised the future of international cricket in the country.
Ishaq’s supporters protest in Rahim Yar Khan:
Soon after news of the LeJ chief’s death broke, his followers took to the streets of Rahim Yar Khan and attacked police vans.
A demonstration took place outside Ishaq’s Rahim Yar Khan residence while small protests were also organised in Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahwalpur.
In the wake of this, Punjab police has increased security across the province. Further, all processions and gatherings of the Shia community have been requested to be minimised or temporarily suspended for security reasons.
With inputs from Hassan Naqvi in Lahore