A senior commander of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi outfit and the mastermind of a suicide bombing at a mosque which killed over 60 Shiite Muslims was among the two militants killed in an encounter in Pakistan’s troubled Baluchistan province.
Head of the LeJ Baluchistan Usman Saifullah, the suspected mastermind of the January 30 blast at a packed minority Shia mosque in the Shikarpur district of Pakistan’s Sindh province, was hiding in a hotel near Gahi Khan chowk in Quetta when the security forces launched a raid, killing him and another militant, police said yesterday.
“Usman Saifullah who is a senior commander of the LeJ and its head in Baluchistan was killed after a shootout with security forces,” senior police official Bashir Brohi said.
Another security official said that the Frontier Corps, assisted by some intelligence officials, had raided a hotel near Gahi Khan chowk on the Saryab road in which two militants were killed and another arrested.
“There were some militants hiding in the hotel and they fired on the security forces in which two of them, including Usman, were killed,” he said, adding that five security personnel were injured in the shootout while one militant was arrested from the hotel.
“A high value terrorist, Usman was also involved in the killing of members of the Hazara community who have been systematically targeted and killed in the province. He had also escaped from the Anti-Terrorist Force Jail in Quetta Cantonment in 2008,” the official said.
The Baluchistan Home Department had announced Rs two and a half million bounty on his head. Intelligence sources also said the commander had close contacts with both al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban.
A senior counter terrorism official in Karachi Umar Khatab said since Shikarpur in Sindh was located on the border with Baluchistan, they believed the bombing there was carried out by Usman’s group.
At least 61 people, including children, were killed in a suicide bombing during Friday prayers at a packed minority Shia mosque in Pakistan’s Sindh province on January 30, the deadliest sectarian attack to hit the country in recent times.