A murderous chasm

When bombs targeted Shias of the Hazara ethnic group in Quetta last week, killing almost 100 civilians, sectarian terror ascended a new, appalling level. Pictures of mourners sitting with coffins in the freezing cold in protest, sent shock waves through Pakistan and beyond.

The perpetrators of the Quetta massacre, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, have attacked Pakistani Shias repeatedly, 2012 having been the bloodiest year yet suffered by the minority Muslim community. The growing strength of this violent sectarian group transcended Pakistan's borders in 2011, when Shia worshippers in Afghan cities were targeted on Ashura. President Hamid Karzai blamed Pakistan-based extremists for the attacks that killed 63.

QAEDA CONNECTION

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was set up in 1996 as an extremist offshoot of the Sunni sectarian outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). Officially, the groups are separate, and both were banned by Pervez Musharraf's government in 2002. In 2003, the US classified the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as a foreign terrorist organisation, and blocked its finances worldwide.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was formed by Riyaz Basra, who broke away from the mother organisation, along with Akram Lahori and Malik Ishaq. Basra was killed in 2002; Lahori is currently in jail. Malik Ishaq was released from prison recently, but following a rise in anti-Shia attacks, put under house arrest.

In Balochistan, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is led by Usman Saifullah Kurd and Dawood Badani. A Pakistani anti-terror court had on November 8, 2003 sentenced them to death for involvement in a series of sectarian terrorist attacks targeting Shias and moderate Sunnis.

Badani was arrested in Karachi in 2003; Kurd in 2006 in the same city. Two years later, on January 18, 2008, the two men escaped from a high-security prison under mysterious circumstances. Pakistan has announced cash rewards for information leading to the arrests of Badani and Kurd.

Badani is related to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks — he is a brother-in-law of Ramzi Yousef, whose uncle is KSM. Yousef was one of the main perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and was, along with KSM, a co-conspirator in the multi-attack Bojinka plot of 1995. He is serving a life sentence in the US; KSM is in custody at Guantanamo Bay.

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