Top LeJ member killed in ‘shoot-out’ with police

WEB DESK: A top member of a extremist group that has been behind numerous bloody attacks on Shias has been killed in a shoot-out with police, officials said on Thursday. Haroon Bhatti, a senior member of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), was arrested with the help of Interpol last month in Dubai and brought to Pakistan.

“Bhatti was being interrogated and during the course of interrogation, the police raided a compound of terrorists Wednesday night” in Lahore, senior local police official Omar Virk told AFP. He said the militants opened fire on the police from the compound.

Bhatti, who had identified the compound for police, had accompanied them on the raid, he said, adding that the extremist and three other militants were killed inside the compound “in the exchange of fire”. So-called “encounter” killings like Thursday’s incident have long aroused suspicion among rights activists in Pakistan, who accuse the authorities of using them as a means of disposing of troublesome militants and criminals without going through the courts.

Cases against militants affiliated with groups like LeJ often collapse because there is little protection from intimidation for judges or witnesses. LeJ has claimed responsibility for some of the most brazen attacks on Shias in recent history, including a January 2013 bombing in the Quetta that killed over a hundred members of the Hazara minority group. In February 2013, LeJ claimed responsibility for another attack in the same neighbourhood that killed around 80 members from the Hazara community. Authorities had also been accused of quietly tolerating LeJ until July, when the organisation’s leadership was wiped out in a battle with police in Lahore. The group remains active, according to experts.