MULTAN, May 14: Riaz Basra, the alleged mastermind behind hundreds of sectarian killings, was killed with three of his accomplices in an ‘encounter’ in Mailsi on Tuesday.

The ‘shootout’ took place at Dakota, some 65km from here, which had been targeted twice in the past by the defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi militants. Riaz Basra headed Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. Sources claimed that Basra was in the Faisalabad police custody for the last five months and was being interrogated for the activities of his network.

According to the police, four heavily armed outlaws came to Chak Kot Chaudhry Sher Mohammad Ghalvi at about 3.15am in a Toyota Corolla (DGA-9520) and stopped near the house of Chaudhry Fida Hussain Ghalvi, the district chief of the banned Tehrik-i-Jaferia Pakistan.

Being on the hit-list of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi militants, villagers used to keep vigil round the clock and were helped by the police at night.

Mr Ghalvi told Dawn that he was on guard on the rooftop of his house when the assailants arrived. He said when he questioned the purpose of their visit at the odd hours, they came out of the car and opened fire. Mr Ghalvi said that he and other villagers returned the fire and informed the police control.

Police said that SP Syed Javed Shah of Vehari was patrolling the area with some police officials and “therefore, he arrived at the spot in no time.” Known in police circles as encounter- friendly, SP Javed has already to his credit scores of encounters.

In a crossfire that lasted nearly an hour, the outlaws died. Two of them had beard and the other two, including Basra, were clean-shaved.

The bodies were taken to the Vehari DHQ hospital for a post-mortem examination.

A number printed on the assailants’ car’s windscreen read BRE-944. police said they had recovered some fake number-plates from the car.

Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmed, DIG of the Multan range, told Dawn that the police had also recovered a rocket-launcher, four rockets, four Kalashnikovs and a huge quantity of live rounds from the scene. He said the outlaws had on Monday night hijacked the car at gunpoint in Multan’s Gulgasht Colony.

Mr Ghalvi claimed that the assailants had come to kill him. He said that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi had killed his brother, Mukhtar, in 1997.

It is suspected that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi was involved in two strikes in Dakota. On Aug 18, 1996, it killed 12 people at a Majlis and on July 23, 1997, it slew five people, including TJP leader Mukhtar Husain Ghalvi. On Feb 18, 1999, unknown assailants gunned down three more Shias near Pul (bridge) 14 in the vicinity of Dakota.

Later, at a press conference in Vehari, SP Javed identified one of the dead as Riaz Basra. He said Riaz Basra’s identity was established by one of his accomplices, Kashif, who is under detention for his alleged involvement in the killing of Siddiq Kanju in Lodhran.

Kashif was brought from Lahore in the afternoon. He identified two of the dead as Riaz Basra and Shakeel alias Hamza. Hamza faced the charge of killing DSP Tariq Kamboh in Lahore.

SP Javed said that Basra carried a headmoney of Rs500,000. His body was identified earlier by a police officer who had met him some years ago in Afghanistan.

ARREST: Riaz Basra was arrested in January after the Faisalabad police captured Ajmal alias Sheikh Jamshaid of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. Ajmal, a friend of Basra, helped the police arrest Liaquat Ali of Kehror Pucca, who was wanted for his alleged involvement in a triple murder case.

After interrogating Liaquat, the police raided a number of locations in Faisalabad, Lahore, Jhang, Sargodha and some other parts of the country. Hectic efforts made by the interrogation team and information received from Ajmal and Liaquat finally led to the arrest of Riaz Basra.

Riaz Basra was reportedly handed over to a secret agency for interrogation.

A resident of Khursheed village near Sargodha, Basra became the chief guard of Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan founder Haq Nawaz Jhangvi.

He established Lashkar-i-Jhangvi after the assassination of his leader.