Malik Ishaq, chief of sectarian outfit Lashkari Jhangvi, his two sons Usman and Haq Nawaz, and 11 others were killed in an alleged exchange of fire with police personnel late night.
At least six policemen were injured in the alleged encounter.
Ishaq and his sons were arrested by the Counter-Terrorism Department a week prior to his killing. Following their latest arrest, the police had interrogated them and had subsequently taken them to Shahwala in Punjab’s Muzaffargarh district to aid the police in recovering weapons and explosives, sources in the CTD said.
The encounter appears to have taken place as militants attacked security forces and tried to free Ishaq who was killed in the ensuing exchange of fire, security sources say.
A spokesman for CTD Multan said Ishaq, his two sons, one Ghulam Rasool Shah and two other accused, all from Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, were taken to Muzaffargarh by the counter-terrorism department to aid in the recovery of arms and explosives.
The spokesman said that when the police party was returning after making the recovery, it was attacked by some 12 to 15 gunmen who succeeded in freeing Ishaq, his sons and the other accused and fleeing away on motorcycles.
The militants were met with by SHO CTD police station who had quickly been informed about the attack on the police party and was travelling on the route that the militants had taken, the spokesman said, adding that that’s how the encounter ensued.
The SHO challenged the militants, resulting in the encounter in which six police personnel sustained injuries, the spokesman said. They were shifted to the district headquarters hospital.
The spokesman added that 14 militants, including Malik Ishaq and Ghulam Rasool Shah, were killed by the attackers themselves.
A large amount of weapons and ammunition was recovered from the attacking men and an investigation has been initiated into the events.
All bodies have been shifted to DHQ Muzaffargarh. The bodies of Ishaq and his sons will undergo a postmortem before being taken to Rahim Yar Khan, where he was based.
Lashkari Jhangvi is regarded as the most extreme Sunni terror group in Pakistan and is accused of killing hundreds of Shias after its emergence in the early 1990s. The organisation is also said to have links with Al Qaeda.
The organisation was banned more than a decade ago by former president Pervez Musharraf.
Ishaq, who is a leader of the feared organisation, has been implicated in dozens of cases, mostly murder.
He was arrested in 1997 and is implicated in dozens of cases. He was released on bail in July 2011 after serving a jail term of nearly 14 years.
Since his 2011 release he has been frequently put under house arrest as his sermons raised sectarian tensions. He was also arrested in 2013 over deadly sectarian attacks targeting the Hazara Shia community in Quetta. The first attack took place on Jan 10, 2013 targeting a Hazara snooker hall and killing 92 people and the second bomb attack occurred on Feb 16, killing 89 people. The attacks were claimed by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
Ishaq was also accused of masterminding, from behind bars, the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, which wounded seven players and an assistant coach, and killed eight Pakistanis.
The attacks saw Pakistan stripped of its right to co-host the 2011 cricket World Cup and jeopardised the future of international cricket in the country.