Leader of Sunni Muslim militant group captured by Pakistani security forces

Pakistani security forces have captured a leader of a banned Sunni Muslim militant group during a raid on his hide-out near the southern port city of Karachi, two security officials said Tuesday. Usman Chotto, the operations chief of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group, was captured several days ago, the two officials, both from Pakistan's powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the secretive nature of their work.

Chotto was chief of operations for the group, blamed for the killings of hundreds of minority Shiite Muslims and linked to many attacks on Westerners in recent years. The group is also believed to have some ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. Chotto, now in his 20s, gained prominence in the group after the September arrest of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's leader, Asif Chotto. The two men are not related.

Usman Chotto was not on Pakistan's list of most wanted terrorists, but police had been keenly seeking him for several years. In addition to more recent crimes, Chotto has been accused of killing a police officer when he was just 13 years old. Authorities say he had played a key role in recruiting a squad of suicide bombers for attacks in the country in the past two years.

Pakistan has a history of sectarian violence, mostly blamed on rival Sunni and Shiite extremist groups. Although most of the country's Sunni and Shiite Muslims live peacefully together, small radical groups on both sides often target each other's leaders and activists.

About 97 percent of Pakistan's 150 million population is Muslim, and Sunnis outnumber Shiites by about 4-1. Neither official would say where Chotto was being held, or when he might appear before a court. Police and government officials would not immediately comment on the arrest, reports the AP. N.U.

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