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Pak army denies links with sectarian killers Top judge raps lax airport security

ISLAMABAD, Feb 24, (AFP): Pakistan’s army has been forced to deny any links to an outlawed extremist group which claimed a series of devastating bomb attacks against Shiite Muslims that killed more than 200 people in recent weeks.
“The armed forces were not in contact with any militant organisation, including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ),” chief military spokesman, Major General Asim Bajwa, was quoted as telling reporters by local newspaper Dawn. A military official confirmed the remarks to AFP.
LeJ is Pakistan’s most extreme Sunni Muslim terror group and is linked to both Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, which are fighting against the army.
It claimed an attack on a snooker hall in the southwestern city of Quetta that killed 92 Shiites on January 10, a February 1 attack targeting Shiites in the northwest that killed 24 and a February 16 bomb that killed 89 Shiites in Quetta.
Rights activists accuse the authorities of failing to protect Shiites, who account for 20 percent of the population, and question whether the military has failed to crack down on LeJ through incompetence or complicity.
“There is no way the army can afford this (links to militants). If such a thing comes to notice it will be sorted out,” Bajwa was quoted as saying by Dawn.
LeJ emerged as a spin-off from mujahiedeen groups which were funded by the US Central Intelligence Agency and backed by the Pakistani intelligence services during the 1980s war against Soviet troops in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The January 10 bombing was the worst single attack on Shiites in Pakistan.
According to Human Rights Watch, 2012 was the deadliest year on record for Pakistani Shiites, with more than 400 people killed.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s top judge reprimanded airport security agencies on Friday after a wealthy murder suspect managed to flee abroad, warning that lax procedures could allow terrorists to escape.
Chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is investigating how Shahrukh Jatoi, 20, managed to fly to the United Arab Emirates from Karachi, without any record of his departure despite an alert for his arrest.
He is the chief suspect in the December murder of 20-year-old Shahzeb Khan, the son of a senior police officer who was shot dead in Karachi.
Jatoi returned to Pakistan last month to face trial, but the Supreme Court is now calling for those who allowed him to board the plane to be punished.
“Two months have passed and nobody knows how Shahrukh Jatoi managed to escape... If this is the state of affairs of security agencies at airports, then tomorrow, terrorists might escape after carrying out attacks,” said Chaudhry.

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