LAHORE, Pakistan, July 31, (AFP): Seven Islamist extremists were killed in a shootout in Pakistan’s wealthy Punjab province as police raided the group suspected of launching attacks on security posts, officials said Sunday. Gunfire erupted between between police and 10 suspected militants early Sunday morning in a house where the group was holed up. Police said the seven dead were killed by bullets from their own men. “When the firing stopped, seven terrorists were found dead by the firing of their own accomplices and the remaining escaped in the darkness of the night,” a police statement said.
The shootout occurred in Pakistan’s central Punjab province about 56 kilometres (35 miles) west of Lahore. Police said the Islamists belonged to the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the banned sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). They were accused of planning attacks on security posts and law enforcement agencies in Punjab. Rights activists have blamed Pakistani police for staging raids to kill suspects they fear could be freed if tried in a court. Pakistan launched a countrywide campaign against militancy called the National Action Plan in 2015 after a deadly Taliban attack on a Peshawar school killed more than 150 people, mostly children.
The Sunni LeJ group has claimed responsibility for some of the most brazen attacks on Shiites in Pakistan’s recent history, including a January 2013 bombing in Quetta that killed over one hundred members of the Shiite Hazara minority group. Sectarian violence — in particular that carried out by Sunni militants against Shiites, who make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan’s population of 200 million — has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade. Meanwhile, masked attackers stormed a religious meeting place in southwest Bangladesh, cutting off the long hair of the worshippers, police said on Saturday. It was not clear whether the attack was linked in any way to other killings this year of liberals and religious minorities in the mostly Muslim nation of 160 million people.
The attack, in the south-western district of Chuadanga, targeted unorthodox religious devotees known as bauls. “About nine to 10 miscreants with masks stormed the (bauls’) meeting place and tied up them to a tree, beat them and set fire to their shelter,” said Abu Jihad Mohammad Fakhrul Islam, the officer in charge of Damurhuda police station, 260 km (160 miles) south west of Dhaka. Islam told Reuters the attackers threatened to kill the bauls unless they left the village, taking all their belongings, within 10 days. He said no one had been arrested yet. People from a similar religious group reported being attacked in the same district on July 17