By National News Desk
Pakistan’s anti-terrorism police and the country’s intelligence agency raided the hiding places of an outlawed Shia militant group in eastern Punjab province and arrested seven suspects who allegedly wanted to attack the leaders of rival Sunni Muslim groups, the spokesperson said Thursday.
The Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department reported that suspects from the outlawed Sipah-e-Mohammad group had been arrested in three separate raids over the previous 24 hours from the cities of Sargodha, Khusab and Sahiwal.
It was said that the officers seized the bomb-making material and the weapons that were to be used in sectarian attacks by the men arrested. The suspects were directed by militant leader Mehmood Iqbal, who was hiding in a neighbouring country, officials said. Authorities have not named the country, but officials have previously blamed Iran for supporting Shia militants.
Pakistani security forces often make such arrests, but the latest ones came just after Sunni militants killed 11 Shiite coal miners who had been abducted from southwestern Baluchistan.
Hundreds of Shia minorities from the Hazara community have been rallying in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, since Sunday’s murder of coal miners.
Slain coal miners also came from the Hazara community, repeatedly targeted by Sunni militants, including an Islamic State affiliate, who claimed responsibility for the abduction and killing of miners some 48 kilometres (30 miles) east of Quetta.
Under Islamic tradition, burial takes place as soon as possible after death. But the Shiites refused to bury the dead. They also said that they would not hold funerals until the authorities arrested the killers.
Shia have been calling for a crackdown on the outlawed Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba group that has killed scores of Shia Muslims in Pakistan over the last few years.