- The Washington Times - Monday, July 29, 2002

From combined dispatches
MULTAN, Pakistan Four men being held in connection with a massacre at a Roman Catholic church last year were killed along with two other Islamic militants yesterday in a fierce gunbattle with police after an escape attempt, officials said.
Sikandar Hayyat, police chief in the city of Bahawalpur in Punjab province, said police were traveling outside the city with four suspects, all members of the outlawed extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, when they were fired on from another car.
The attackers freed all four militants and wounded nine officers in a gunfight, Mr. Hayyat said. But police gave pursuit and caught up to them near the town of Khairpur Tamewali, about 60 miles southeast of Multan.
Six persons were killed in the second encounter, including all four who had been under arrest. Police had been taking the men to a site where they said arms and ammunition had been stored.
Two of the attackers escaped, Mr. Hayyat said.
Atta Mohammad, a doctor at the hospital in Khairpur Tamewali, said nine police officers had been injured and were being taken to a larger medical facility at Bahawalpur.
The four who had been in police custody were suspects in October's attack during a Protestant service at St. Dominic's Church in Bahawalpur. They had been paraded before the media after their arrests last week.
Sixteen worshippers, mostly children, and a Muslim security guard were killed in the attack, the worst single massacre of Christians in Pakistan's 54-year history.
The four militants admitted to a parish priest last week that they had taken part in the massacre, in which eight masked men riding motorcycles raked the congregation with automatic gunfire as worshippers gathered outside the church on Oct. 28.
"They said they were satisfied with what they had done," the Rev. Roccus Patras, who interviewed the men in their jail cell, told the London Daily Telegraph. "They said it was because of the American attack on Afghanistan."
"They said a lot of Muslims were killed there, but nobody was taking any steps to protest, so that's why they planned to kill Christians here in Pakistan."
President Pervez Musharraf had banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi two months earlier as part of an effort to purge the country of extremism and terrorism.
Although Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has traditionally targeted Shi'ite Muslims, police believe they may be working with groups connected to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda to target Westerners and the Pakistani government.
The groups seek revenge for the collapse of the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan and for Gen. Musharraf's crackdown on militant Islamic groups.
Police have detained dozens of militant suspects, many of them Lashkar-e-Jhangvi members, in connection with a June 14 car bombing outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, which killed 12 persons, and a May 8 suicide bombing outside the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi, which killed 11 French engineers and three other persons, including the bomber.

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