Pakistani officials on Monday claimed to have killed a militant who masterminded January’s attack on a mosque in the Sindh province, according to local media reports. The attack on Jan. 30 had targeted a Shia mosque in the Shikarpur district during Friday prayers and had led to the deaths of over 60 people.
“The man killed was identified as Usman Saifullah Kurd who masterminded various suicide attacks and bombings at mosques belonging to the Hazara Shia community in Quetta and other areas of Balochistan,” a police officer in Balochistan, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Dawn News, a Pakistani daily. The news was later confirmed by a senior official in the Balochistan government.
“Kurd and his accomplices fired at the forces when they entered a restaurant where Kurd was having lunch, and in retaliation was killed along with another accomplice,” Akbar Hussain Durrani, home secretary of the southwestern province of Balochistan, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday, adding that two soldiers were also injured in the firing.
Kurd, allegedly a key commander of the Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), had broken out of a prison in Quetta in 2008, according to a report by Dawn News. Since then, he had reportedly maintained close contact with both al Qaeda and the Taliban.
LeJ has, in the past, vociferously voiced its opposition to the presence of the Shia community in Pakistan, reportedly calling them the “greatest infidels on Earth.” Since its inception in the late 1990s, the group has claimed responsibility for several attacks on Shias, including the January 2013 blasts in Quetta, which killed over 130 people.
“Kurd was involved in the Shikarpur attack and many other major attacks in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, particularly against the Shiites and Hazara communities,” Pakistan Today quoted Durrani as saying.
In recent months, Pakistan’s Shia community, which constitutes nearly 20 percent of its population, has come under intensified attack by several Sunni extremist groups. In the most recent attack targeting Shias, 20 people were killed and over 50 were injured in successive blasts and firing inside a mosque in Peshawar last week.