Pakistani security forces killed the leader of a fiercely anti-Shi’ite Muslim militant group during a targeted operation early on Tuesday on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Quetta, security officials said.
Jaish-ul-Islam, a relatively new movement that considers Shi’as as apostates against Islam, has claimed many of the recent attacks on Shi’ite Hazara in Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is the capital.
It is similar to the larger Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has carried out large attacks against Shi’as, who the movement says should leave the country.
The military’s Frontier Corps and intelligence agents acted on a tip to conduct the Quetta raid, according to Frontier Corps spokesman Khan Wasey.
Jaish-ul-Islam’s chief, Mehmood-ur-Rehman Rind, was killed along with two other militants, he said.
“Rind was involved in targeted killings and planning suicide attacks on the Shi’ite Hazara community and many other attacks,” Wasey told Reuters.
Heavy weapons including rockets and grenades were used in the battle, which lasted for several hours. One Frontier Corps officer was wounded in the exchange of fire.
Sectarian strife has been worsening in Pakistan, where Shi’ite Muslims make up about 20 percent of a population of 180 million.
More than 100 Shia Muslims have been killed in attacks in Pakistan this year, including 45 gunned down on a bus in Karachi and 62 in a suicide bombing in January.
On Monday in Quetta, gunmen riding motorcycles gunned down two Hazara brothers and a police officer outside the city’s passport office.