Dera Ismail Khan(Pakistan): A faction of Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) cooperated with IS this week in an attack on a police college that killed 59 people, the group's spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday. The confirmation of a link between the two extremist groups will stoke fears that Middle East-based IS is building a presence in Pakistan by aligning with domestic militant outfits.
IS claimed responsibility for Monday's attack in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta and released photographs of the purported gunmen, who hunted down and killed police cadets during a raid that lasted nearly five hours.
But Pakistani authorities, who in September said they had crushed IS's efforts to enter Pakistan, pinned the blame for the assault on an LeJ faction, Al Alami. "We have no direct link with Daesh, but we have done this attack together," said Ali bin Sufyan, spokesman for LeJ Al-Alami, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
Sufyan declined to elaborate on the help Al Alami provided to IS in Quetta, the provincial capital of Pakistan's vast Balochistan region.
"We will provide help to anyone who asks against Pakistani security forces, and we will also accept help for this," Sufyan added. LeJ, whose roots are in the heartland Punjab province, has a history of launching sectarian attacks in Balochistan, particularly against the minority Hazaras. Pakistan has previously accused LeJ of colluding with Al Qaeda. Authorities launched a crackdown against LeJ last year, particularly in Punjab. In a blow to the group, Malik Ishaq, its leader, was killed in July 2015, along with 13 members of the central leadership in what police call a failed escape attempt.