Pakistani police arrested Malik Ishaq, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, at his home in Rahim Yar Khan, just one week after his terror group claimed credit for a bombing in Quetta that killed at least 90 people. Ishaq has been accused of direct involvement in numerous terrorist attacks but has never been convicted in a Pakistani court.
Pakistani police have not disclosed the reason for Ishaq’s arrest, nor how long he will be in detention. “It was not immediately clear on what charges he was arrested,” Dawn reported.
Last week, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed credit for the murder of more than 90 Pakistanis, mostly minority Shia, after detonating nearly one ton of “high-grade” explosives in the capital of Baluchistan province. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed credit for numerous terror attacks in Pakistan, and has released videos of executions of captured Shia prisoners.
Ishaq has been in the custody of the Pakistani government in the past. He was detained in 1997 after admitting to murdering more than 100 Pakistanis, but was subsequently released by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in July 2011. Ishaq has dodged numerous convictions by murdering and intimidating witnesses, and even once told a judge that “dead men can’t talk.” [See Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the “lack of evidence,” from Dawn, for more information on Pakistan’s inability to convict Ishaq and his intimidation of witnesses.]
Ishaq doesn’t hide his disdain for the political system in Pakistan, and made it clear at the time of his release in 2011 that he intended to continue to wage jihad.
“We are ready to lay down lives for the honor of the companions of the Holy Prophet” Ishaq said after he was released from custody in 2011. He was met by “Kalashnikov-wielding supporters on a Land Cruiser motorcade,” Dawn reported.
Ishaq has also been accused of plotting numerous terrorist attacks while in custody, including the March 3, 2009 assault on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s links to al Qaeda, Taliban
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is an anti-Shia terror group that has integrated with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has an extensive network in Pakistan and often serves as al Qaeda’s muscle for terror attacks. The group has conducted numerous suicide and other terror attacks inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. In particular, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is well known for carrying out sectarian terror attacks against minority Shia, Ahmadis, Sufis, and Christians in Pakistan.
The US designated the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2003. In 2010, the US added two of the terror group’s top leaders, Amanullah Afridi and Matiur Rehman, LeJ’s operations chief, to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
The Treasury Department described Afridi as “a key figure in directing terrorist-related activities of LeJ for several years.” Afridi previously “prepared and provided suicide jackets for al Qaeda operations, trained suicide bombers and trained the assassin of Pakistani cleric Allama Hassan Turabi,” a prominent Shia cleric. Turabi was killed in June 2006 in Karachi by a 16-year-old Bangladeshi suicide bomber.
Rehman is a top operational leader said to manage al Qaeda’s ‘Rolodex’ of fighters who have passed through training camps and safe houses. Treasury described Rehman as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s “chief operational commander” and a “planning director” who has “worked on behalf of al Qaeda.”
Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi commanders have also been killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. In February 2010, the US killed Qari Mohammad Zafar, a senior Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader as well as a leader of the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam, in a drone strike in North Waziristan. Zafar was behind multiple terror attacks in Pakistan and was wanted by the US for murdering a consular official in Karachi.
Pakistan added the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi to its list of terror organizations in August 2001, yet has done little to crack down on the group.