The mastermind behind a suicide bombing at a mosque in Sindh which killed 61 Shia Muslims last month has been killed, a senior Pakistani official has told the AFP news agency.
The January 30 blast hit the mosque in the Shikarpur district of the southern province of Sindh as hundreds of worshippers attended Friday prayers.
"We have been chasing Usman Saifullah Kurd for a long time. We finally got him yesterday and he was killed in the exchange of fire," Akbar Hussain Durrani, home secretary of the southwestern province of Baluchistan where Kurd was killed, told AFP on Tuesday.
"Kurd was a key commander of the Sunni hardliner group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi [LeJ] and was involved in the Shikarpur attack and many other major attacks in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, particularly against the Shia and Hazara communities," he added.
Durrani said security forces received a tip that Kurd was having lunch at a restaurant in the city of Quetta, Baluchistan's provincial capital, where the LeJ group is particularly active.
"Kurd and his accomplices fired at the forces when they entered the restaurant, and in retaliation was killed along with another accomplice," he said.
"Two soldiers were also injured in the operation while another militant was arrested."
A senior security official in Quetta said Kurd was the main instigator behind the Shikarpur assault, and confirmed the details of the raid.
Hundreds of Shia Muslims from the Hazara ethnic group have been killed in numerous attacks by the LeJ in Baluchistan. The province is also rife with separatist militancy and is a no-go area for many Pakistanis.
However, the sectarian violence has now spread to the rest of the country as well. On February 13, a total of 22 Shia Muslims were killed in the northwestern city of Peshawar when three suicide bombers attacked their mosque during Friday prayers.