Pakistan Police Kill Six Suspected Militants


Pakistani police on Thursday shot dead six suspected militants thought to be planning a major sectarian attack and seized explosives, suicide vests and weapons in a raid in Karachi, an official said.

The men who police said were members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a banned Sunni Muslim extremist group, were allegedly planning to attack a Shiite gathering on Friday.

Pakistan's minority Shiite community will mark Ashura, the holiest day in their calendar, on Friday with processions to mourn the seventh-century killing of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson Imam Hussein.

Ashura processions have been targeted in the past and security has been beefed up across the country in preparation.

"We carried out an operation against the terrorists on an intelligence tip-off," Chaudhry Mohammad Aslam, who led the raiding team, told AFP.

A fierce gun battle broke out during the raid in in Maripur town in western Karachi, in which three officers were wounded and six suspected militants were killed, he said.

LeJ has claimed numerous deadly attacks on Shiites, who make up around 20 percent of Pakistan's 180 million population, including two devastating bombings in the southwestern city of Quetta at the start of the year.

Police said the LeJ were plotting to attack the grand congregation of Shiites in Karachi.

They said the raid recovered suicide vests, hand grenades, detonators and remote control devices and a car bomb, besides two motorcycles.

The shootout came after a series of small bomb attacks late on Wednesday targeting Shiites in Karachi, which injured at least seven people.

Besides deploying contingents of army and paramilitary security forces, cell phone networks have been shut down in some cities to prevent remote-controlled bomb attacks.

Karachi, a city of 18 million people, which contributes 42 percent of Pakistan's GDP, is rife with murder, kidnappings and has been plagued with sectarian, ethnic, and political violence for years.

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