Pakistani forces kill militant wanted for more than 100 murders

A Pakistani army soldier stands guard along the border fence near the Punjpai area of Quetta in Balochistan on May 8, 2018.
A Pakistani army soldier stands guard along the border fence near the Punjpai area of Quetta in Balochistan on May 8, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - A notorious Islamist militant wanted for more than 100 murders was killed in an intense gunfight with security forces in southwestern Pakistan on Thursday (May 17), the military said.

Pakistani forces raided the Killi Almas village on the outskirts of Quetta, capital of the restive Balochistan province, based on a tip that there were suicide bombers hiding there, according to a military statement.

Three militants were killed in the firefight that erupted, including Salman Badeni, the provincial commander of the sectarian militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

Badeni - described by authorities as a "high-value target" - was wanted for his involvement in the killing of more than 100 people, including policemen and members of the minority Shi'ite Hazara community.

The other two militants were suicide bombers, the military said.

An army intelligence officer was also killed in the operation, it added, and four other soldiers were wounded - two of them critically.

LeJ, a Sunni group, is widely considered to be one of the most violent sectarian outfits in Pakistan. It has claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile attacks in recent years on Shi'ites, who are considered heretics by sectarian Sunni extremists.

Several Islamist militant groups are active in Balochistan, including the Taleban and local affiliates of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

More than 1,500 Shi'ite Hazaras have been killed in the province in recent years, according to Mr Abdul Khaliq Hazara, chairman of the Hazara Democratic Party.

Many of them were killed in attacks blamed on LeJ and ISIS. Both groups claimed responsibility for an attack on lawyers in Quetta last year that killed more than 70 people.

Pakistan has also been battling separatist insurgents in Balochistan for over a decade, with hundreds of soldiers and rebels killed in the fighting.