Pakistan today ordered a "targeted operation" against militants in Quetta after nearly 90 people died in a terror attack last week in a Shia area in the restive southwestern city, as security forces killed four members of a banned outfit responsible for the bombing and arrested around 170 suspects.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf "has ordered an immediate launch of targeted operation aimed at eliminating those responsible for playing with the lives of innocent civilians and restoring peace and security in Quetta," said a spokesman for the premier's office.
Ashraf "is closely monitoring the situation in Quetta and is in constant touch with concerned authorities," the spokesman said without giving details.
The Geo TV channel reported that law enforcement agencies and security forces had been given 36 hours to conduct the operation against militant groups responsible for targeting Shias in Quetta.
Last night, four members of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were killed and seven others arrested during an operation conducted by security forces in Quetta in the wake of the recent attack.
Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani today said that four armed members of the banned group were killed and seven others arrested, after an exchange of fire with Frontier Corps personnel in Killi Qambrani area of Quetta, the provincial capital, late last night.
"One of the killed Wali Mohammad is a key leader of the LeJ and was the mastermind behind the twin bombings on Alamdar road in January and also behind killings of prominent Shias and security officials in the province," an official said.
The official said the other three killed were also activists of the LeJ.
Security officials claimed to have arrested around 170 suspects belonging to hardline groups.
After the earlier attack on January 10, Prime Minister Ashraf gave in to demands from Shia groups and sacked the Balochistan government.
Ashraf imposed Governor's Rule in the province but observers say the measure has not led to an improvement in the security situation.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today summoned the Defence and Interior Secretaries as it took up a suo motu case regarding the killing of hundreds of Shias in terror attacks in Quetta.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, which is hearing the case, directed the two secretaries to appear in court.
The bench also sought reports from several departments regarding twin suicide bombings in Quetta on January 10 and the latest attack on February 16.
Ninety-two people, most of them Shia Hazaras, were killed in the January 10 attack while 89 people died on Saturday.
Both attacks were carried out in Shia-dominated areas of Quetta.
Hundreds of Shias have joined a sit-in protest in Quetta and refused to bury dozens of bodies till the security of the city is handed over to the army and the government takes steps to protect the minority community.
Shias and rights groups have also organised protests in cities across the country, including Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
Federal interior minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Quetta that the terrorist activities aimed against Shias was being carried out to destabilise the country.
"We have intelligence reports about these groups being given assignments and funds by foreign elements to carry out these terrorist activities," Malik said.
He said a proposal was under consideration to declare the residential areas of the Hazara community as red zones.
Durrani also confirmed that the killed terrorists were high profile killers and involved in the killing of Shias and police officers.
He said Intelligence and paramilitary officers also confiscated bomb-making material, weapons, suicide vests and ammunition during the operation.
Shias, who make up 20 per cent of Pakistan's population of 180 million, have been repeatedly targeted by the LeJ in Balochistan.
According to Human Rights Watch, over 400 Shias were killed in targeted attacks across Pakistan last year. More than 125 have been killed in Balochistan province this year, most of them Shia Hazaras.
Pak Launches Targeted Operation Against Quetta Militants
Rezaul H Laskar/Islamabad
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