(WASHINGTON) — Five days after a bombing in Pakistan claimed almost 100 lives, the co-founder of the terrorist organization that claimed responsibility for the deadly attack has been taken into custody.
“We have arrested Malik Ishaq and he’s in jail,” Ashfaq Gujar, a senior Pakistani police official told ABC News. However, there is no specific terrorist charge under which Ishaq has been arrested.
Ishaq is a leader of the anti-Shi’ite group Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ), a group designated by Pakistan and the U.S. as a terrorist organization.
Authorities nabbed Ishaq in Rahim Yar Khan, a city deep inside Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province where most Sunni militant organizations are based.
The arrest came after the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Raja Pervez Ashraf, ordered “targeted operations” against militant organizations following the Quetta bombing. It was the second deadly attack in that city in as many months. Ishaq was reportedly one of a number of suspected militants arrested as a result of those government operations.
Ishaq co-founded LeJ in the mid 1990s and since its inception the group allegedly has been involved in not only launching attacks in Pakistan but recently expanded operations across the border in Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai blamed the group for an attack on a Shi’ite shrine in Kabul in 2011.
Despite accusations of violence against Ishaq reaching back decades, Pakistani author and analyst Ayesha Siddiqa cautioned that the terror leader’s arrest could be nothing more than a public relations move by the Pakistani government. Siddiqi said Ishaq was likely taken into custody merely to “cool the rising tempers” over the violence.
According to Pakistani news reports, Ishaq has been connected to dozens of deaths, including an infamous 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, but was never convicted due to lack of evidence.
“Malik Ishaq was charged in nearly 200 criminal cases, but the frightened judges used to welcome him honorably in court, and even offered him ‘tea and cookies,'” according to a report on Ishaq by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Claire Moran, CNN
Roshni Majumdar and Deborah Bloom, CNN Newswire