QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistan’s military has killed a senior member of Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi(LeJ) along two suicide bombers in a raid in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, the army’s media wing said on Thursday.
A military intelligence officer was killed and four other soldiers wounded during the operation targeting Salman Badeni, the Baluchistan region chief of LeJ, on the outskirts of provincial capital Quetta.
Badeni had been “involved in killings of over 100 innocent personnel of Hazara Community and police”, the army said in a statement.
The military also released pictures of a blood-spattered militant laying dead on the ground, along with photos of ammunition and what appears to be bomb-making material.
LeJ, a group which subscribes to the hardline Takfiri Deobandi school of Islam, considers Shi’ites apostates and has carried out scores of bloody bomb and gun attacks in Baluchistan over the past two decades, most of them aimed at the Shi’ite Hazara community.
Earlier this month members of the Hazara community went on a hunger strike in Quetta to protest a recent spate of killings targeting them and to demand greater protection in the resource-rich province that has been plagued by violence and insurgency.
Over the past couple of years Islamic State militants have also targeted the Hazara community in Baluchistan.
The Hazaras called off the protest after meeting with Pakistan’s powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who vowed greater protection and promised those targeting Hazaras “shall suffer twice as much”.
Violence in Baluchistan is also a worry for China, which has voiced concerns about security in the province that hosts a key route in the $57-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a transport and energy link planned to run from western China to Pakistan’s southern deep-water port of Gwadar.
Islamist militants have killed thousands of people in Pakistan since early 2000s, in their bid to impose a hardline version of Islam.
Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Michael Perry