Pakistan Arrests Extremist Leader for Inciting Sectarian Violence

Posted September 22nd, 2011 at 5:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Pakistani police have placed a prominent Islamist militant under temporary house arrest after accusing him of trying to incite sectarian hatred.

Officials said Thursday Malik Ishaq, the head of the banned Sunni Muslim extremist group Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, was ordered to remain at home for 10 days in the central city of Rahim Yar Khan. Police accuse Ishaq of making public sermons in recent months promoting violence against minority Shi'ite Muslims.

His detention came days after gunmen killed 26 Shi'ite pilgrims traveling by bus through southwestern Pakistan to Iran. And while suspicions fall on Laskhar-e-Jhangvi for the assault, police have not explicitly tied the group to the violence.

Authorities released Ishaq from prison in July after holding him nearly 14 years behind bars. He had faced accusations of masterminding numerous sectarian murders and organizing, from behind bars, the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the eastern city of Lahore, in which seven people lost their lives.

Also Thursday, Pakistani officials said a roadside bomb in the northwestern Bajaur tribal area hit a pickup truck carrying members of an anti-Taliban militia. Five people, including three members of the militia, were killed and eight others wounded.

While the Pakistani military continues to battle militants throughout the northwest, Islamabad has long encouraged the formation of local militias, known as lashkars, to help in the fight against the Taliban, especially in remote areas near the Afghan border.

Members of the lashkars are often the targets of militant violence.

Elsewhere in the northwest, three militants were killed and two others arrested in Mingora, the main town in the Swat Valley. Local officials said one militant blew himself up, while the other two were shot dead overnight by security forces.

Pakistan's military said last year that its offensive against the Taliban in 2009 cleared Swat of militants, but sporadic violence has continued there.