Islamabad: The Pakistani security forces on Sunday launched a major hunt for militants behind the killing of five intelligence officials in the eastern Punjab province, reported local media.
Militants of banned extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had kidnapped five intelligence officials who had gone to trace the militants in the mountainous area of the Chakwal district in Punjab province, reported Xinhua.
Army and police, backed by military helicopters, carried out the operation to recover the abducted intelligence officials, but the officials had been killed and their bodies had been thrown. A major was also among the slain officials, according to local media reports.
Heavily-armed militants, led by a wanted leader Dr Arshad, alias Mufti, exchanged fire with the security forces, which continued till late Saturday night.
Earlier local media reports said that Arshad and several other militants had been killed during the operation. But officials later denied the report of the killing of Arshad and any other militants.
The district police officer in Chakwal said that Arshad and his accomplices had fled late Saturday night after the forces launched the operation.
The government had announced a reward of 500,000 rupees (USD 5,8140) for the arrest of Arshad. He is accused of involvement in series of attacks on Shiite Muslims and a minority Ahmadi group.
Police and security forces launched a major operation against the militants in the mountains surrounding Chakwal district on Sunday morning. Military helicopters are also taking part in the operation, sources in the region told Xinhua.
They said that police also launched a house-to-house search operation in the area.
The security forces have blocked roads to the areas where the operation is underway against the militants.
Police said that Arshad had been involved in kidnapping of people for ransom to fund his banned groups. They had established a base in the mountainous areas of Chakwal and used to keep the abducted people there.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has strong connections with al Qaeda and Taliban, routinely attack the security forces and Shi’ite Muslims as well as other religious minority groups.
The group was also behind the 2009 attack on the Army`s General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, which had killed nearly 10 Pakistani soldiers.
Members of the group are also operating from the country`s Waziristan tribal region, according to security officials.