Key member of hardline armed group killed in Pakistan

Haroon Bhatti, founding member of outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group, was arrested in Dubai last month and brought back to Pakistan

Key member of hardline armed group killed in Pakistan

World Bulletin / News Desk

A founding member of outlawed Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), along with three LeJ militants, was killed in Pakistan’s northeastern city of Lahore in a shootout with police late Wednesday night, according to local officials.

Last month, Haroon Bhatti -- a founding member of the LeJ, which has been implicated in numerous attacks on members of Pakistan’s minority Shia population -- was arrested in Dubai and, through Interpol, brought back to Pakistan.

According to a spokesman for the Lahore Police Department’s counter-terrorism unit, Bhatti had been accompanying police with a view to identifying a house suspected of being used by LeJ members in Badami Bagh, a middle-class locality in northern Lahore.

Once the house was identified, the spokesman said, militants hiding out therein refused to surrender -- despite repeated warnings -- and had opened fire on police who responded in kind.

According to the spokesman, Bhatti, along with three LeJ militants in the house, were killed in the ensuing shootout, while three policemen were injured.  

In the past, local media have questioned police accounts of killings of other militants in similar circumstances, suggesting they were staged executions known as "false encounters."

In the commercial capital Karachi in particular, dozens of alleged Taliban fighters have been killed in suspected false encounters in the past year, with analysts suggesting police resort to the alleged method to bypass slow judicial processes. 

Bhatti, who had a 2.5-million rupee (roughly $25,000) price on his head for alleged involvement in over two dozen terrorist attacks -- mostly against Shias -- had been a close associate of former LeJ chief Malik Ishaq, who was killed in July in a similar incident.

With Bhatti’s death on Wednesday, almost all key leaders of the formidable militant group, which was established in the mid-1990s, have either been killed or arrested.

Security agencies, however, believe hundreds of LeJ members remain active throughout Pakistan. 

A Sunni-majority country, Pakistan has a long history of sectarian violence, with thousands of Shias and Sunnis having been killed in tit-for-tat violence over the last three decades.

Shia Muslims account for roughly 10 percent of Pakistan’s total population of some 180 million. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Kasım 2015, 15:34