LAHORE: Haroon Bhatti, one of the founding members of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), and three others were killed in a police “encounter” inLahore’s Badami Bagh area late on Wednesday, a spokesman from the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) said. The three other suspects were identified as Omair Nadeem, Omair Hassan and Noman Yasin.
The official told journalists that three police constables had also received bullet injuries during the encounter. Police had brought back Bhatti, along with his four associates, to Pakistan from Dubai with the help of Interpol on October 22 this year.
The key LJ leader was reportedly accompanying the police and CTD personnel to assist them in identifying a house in use of suspected terrorists near Malik park in the Badami Bagh area when the encounter took place. Police sources said that Haroon Bhati was also killed by firing of terrorists. Those who died in the encounter were identified as Haroon Bhati, Umair Nadeem, Nauman and Umar.
The CTD spokesman said the police party raided a house on the tip off to arrest criminals involved in sectarian killings. He added that the terrorists staying in the house offered resistance to the raiding party and opened fire.
Police said the raiding party resorted to retaliatory firing as a result of which the attackers were killed. Police also claims to have recovered a huge cache of arms and explosives, including Kalashnikovs, rifles and hand grenades from the suspected terrorists’ possession.
Police officials feared that the men could have conducted massive sectarian-related terrorist attacks. Their bodies were shifted to the Mayo Hospital’s morgue for legal formalities.
The Punjab government had announced a bounty of Rs2.5 million on the head of Haroon Bhatti, who was accused of being involved in over two dozen terrorist attacks. Bhatti was considered a close aide of Malik Ishaq, the former chief of LJ who was killed in a similar incident earlier in July this year.
Haroon Bhatti was reportedly the last key leader of the outlawed LJ. All of its other prominent leaders have either been killed in police encounters or arrested. He was said to be involved in a massacre in Mominpura, Lahore, that had left 25 people dead and more than 50 injured.
The founding member of LeJ, one of the country’s deadliest militant outfits, was also believed to be behind the killing of a large number of prominent figures and government and other officials, including DSP Tariq Kambo and his guard, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat leader Maulana Shamsur Rehman Moavia, Dr Shabihul Hassan, Advocate Shakir Ali Rizvi, bank manager Syed Waqar Haider and Dr Qaiser Abbas.
Bhatti was also accused of being involved in attacks on playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed, journalist and television anchor Raza Rumi and Advocate Masood Abid Naqvi.