Pakistan army denies links with sectarian killers

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February 22, 2013

Pakistan’s army is denying links to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi extremist group following recent attacks targeting Shiite Muslims. The group is is Pakistan's most extreme Sunni Muslim terror group and is linked to both Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.

February 22, 2013

Pakistan’s army is denying links to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi extremist group following recent attacks targeting Shiite Muslims. The group is is Pakistan's most extreme Sunni Muslim terror group and is linked to both Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban.

People gather after bomb attack at a busy market in Hazara town, on the outskirts of Quetta, Pakistan on February 16, 2013

Pakistan's army has been forced to deny any links to an outlawed extremist group that claimed a series of devastating attacks against Shiite Muslims killing more than 200 people in recent weeks.

"The armed forces were not in contact with any militant organization, 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 pool 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 mujahedeen 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 neighboring 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.

After both recent bombings in Quetta, thousands of Shiites staged protests for days, refusing to bury the dead until the army stepped in to guarantee security.

Both demonstrations, which spread nationwide, were called off after negotiations with the government, which stopped short of transferring Quetta to the military.


Courtesy: AFP

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