MUZAFFARGARH: Chief of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Maliq Ishaq along with 13 militants were killed in Muzaffargarh on Wednesday during a shootout after gunmen attacked a police convoy and freed him as he was being moved, police said.
According to initial information, LeJ chief Malik Ishaq along with his two sons were being taken by counter terrorism department (CTD) officials to a town of Muzaffargarh where they had seized an arms cache to identify men they had detained on suspicion of being members of Ishaq’s group.
As the police convoy returned in the early hours of Wednesday, a group of men on motorcycles ambushed them near Shahwala Jungle in a bid to release Ishaq. Fourteen suspected militants, including the LeJ chief, were killed in the ensuing gun battle.
Ishaq’s two sons, Usman and Haq Nawaz, Ghulam Rasool of the LeJ and his two sons were also killed. Further, CTD Punjab said six members of the anti-terrorism force (ATF) were also injured in the encounter.
“Twelve to 15 terrorists attacked the police party… freed the accused and fled away on motorcycles,” a police spokesperson, Nabila Ghazanfar, quoted a policemen in the area as saying in a message. Police further along the road attacked the gunmen as they were fleeing, killing Ishaq, his two sons, and 11 others, Ghazanfar cited the policemen as saying in his message.
Ishaq’s postmortem is currently underway at District Headquarters Hospital, Muzaffargarh. The bodies of the dead and the injured officials were shifted to the District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital in Muzaffargarh. All gates of the hospital were sealed soon after.
“Ten of the 14 militants killed in the encounter belonged to al Qaeda,” a CTD spokesperson told Express News. Further, he said they are seeking NADRA’s help in identifying the deceased.
Ishaq was on a US list of global terrorists and the group he founded has claimed responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of civilians. He has faced several murder trials but always been acquitted after witnesses refused to testify against him.
He was arrested again on Saturday, under a Maintenance of Public Order act, along with his two sons.
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 is also reportedly taking place outside Ishaq’s Rahim Yar Khan residence. Further, reports suggest demonstrations are also gathering momentum 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.