Sunni militant leader killed - Islamabad strike in retaliation for murder of Shias in Karachi

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By IMTIAZ GUL in Islamabad
  • Published 6.10.03

Islamabad, Oct. 6: Maulana Azam Tariq, head of the outlawed Sunni militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), was killed by unidentified gunmen on Islamabad’s outskirts in retaliation for Friday’s gunning down of four Shias in Karachi.

“Tariq was entering Islamabad and was on his way to the National Assembly when the assailants, abroad a white Toyota Land Cruiser sprayed bullets indiscriminately on his vehicle, killing him, his bodyguards and the driver on the spot," police said.

The gruesome murder came three days after gunmen attacked a bus carrying employees of the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission in Karachi killing six, including four Shias, and wounding eight.

Relatives and officials had blamed the Karachi killings on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a radical Sunni outfit locked in running feuds with its Shia counterpart, the Sipah-e-Mohammad. They had vowed revenge on the masterminds behind the killings.

All the three parties were banned in January 2002 after General Pervez Musharraf declared a crackdown on the three organisations.

Some Shia leaders even alleged that whenever an operation is launched against the Taliban and the al Qaida, terrorist outfits in Pakistan vent their anger on the Shia community.

Azam Tariq, a member of the National Assembly from his home constituency of Jhang, had contested the October 2002 elections from the jail. He was known for his anti-Shia views and had survived a massive bomb blast in Lahore five years ago that killed 25 people including the then SSP chief Zia ur-Rehman Farooqi.

Following the ban on the SSP, Tariq had renamed the outfit as Millate Islamia Party to be able to contest the elections. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) had formed an alliance with Tariq despite his militant and sectarian background. Tariq was used to travelling with armed bodyguards who failed to retaliate to the well-planned ambush today.

Student handover

Pakistan today said the 19 Indonesian and Malaysian students arrested in Karachi last month for suspected al Qaida links would be deported to their respective countries.

“Six Indonesian and thirteen Malaysian students will be deported to their countries in consent with Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur,” foreign office spokesman Masood Khan said at a press briefing.

He added that both the Indonesian and Pakistani interrogators had completed the questioning.

Karachi police had arrested these students from a couple of religious schools in Karachi. Among those arrested was Gun Gun Rusman Gunawan, the brother of Jamia Islamia (JI) mastermind Hambali.

The students were part of a Jamia Islamia “sleeper cell” and belonged to the second generation of JI terrorists being groomed to lead the al Qaida-linked southeast Asian network, Pakistani and Indonesian authorities claimed.

These arrests had also prompted the government to put at least 77 religious seminaries all over the country on a watch list.

Darul Uloom Haqqania of Maulana Samiul-Haq, which is known to have served as a nursery for Afghan mujahideen during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and later Afghan Taliban, was also one of those seminaries put on the watch list.