Another 13 militants also killed in shootout early on Wednesday morning.
The leader of an anti-Shia militant group behind some of Pakistan’s worst sectarian attacks was killed in a shootout with police on Wednesday, authorities said.
Malik Ishaq was shot dead along with several other senior Laskhar-e-Jhangvi leaders in Multan. Jhangvi, long seen as close to Al Qaeda and more recently accused of developing links with the Islamic State group, has a reputation as one of Pakistan’s most ruthless militant groups.
Ishaq, who has been in and out of police custody in recent years, was arrested on Saturday and was being moved when loyalists attacked the convoy in Muzaffargarh, a senior police official who took part in the encounter said on condition of anonymity.
“The police retaliated and in the encounter Ishaq, his two sons and 11 others were killed, while six policemen were injured,” he said. The two sons killed have been identified as Usman and Haq Nawaz.
Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada confirmed that Ishaq and “13 other sectarian militants including two of his sons” had been killed in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Another senior police official said the attack came after Ishaq and the other Jhangvi cadres had been taken to recover a cache of explosives. The cache included “three water coolers full of explosive, detonators, a Kalashnikov, some rifles and hundreds of bullets,” the police official said on condition of anonymity. Another official said the cache had also included 4 hand grenades and 3 suicide jackets.
“After the recovery when police were returning back, at around 3 a.m., more than a dozen terrorists attacked the convoy and tried to rescue Ishaq and others,” the police official said. He said all the six militants in police custody were killed along with eight of the attackers, while some of the would-be rescuers fled.
Mushtaq Rasoor, chief doctor at the government-run Muzaffargarh District Hospital, confirmed receiving 14 bodies.
There has been no immediate reaction from Jhangvi but police encounters in Pakistan have often being viewed with suspicion.
Ishaq gained notoriety for his anti-Shia rhetoric and has been accused of masterminding dozens of attacks against the minority group. Jhangvi had claimed responsibility for some of the most brazen attacks on Shia minorities in Pakistan’s recent history including a January 2013 bombing in Quetta that killed over 100 members of the Shia Hazara minority group.
In February 2013, Jhangvi claimed responsibility for another attack in the same neighborhood that killed around 80 members from the Hazara community.