GILGIT: At least 10 people were killed and another 40 were injured in clashes following a hand grenade attack in the northern Pakistani city of Gilgit on Tuesday.
The attacks led to an army takeover and curfew in the city, confining the inhabitants to their homes, as the situation turned violent. The violence spread to Chilas as enraged mob killed four persons and torched four vehicles.A large number of police and security forces arrived at the scene, while people injured in different firing incidents were shifted to District Headquarter Hospital.
Pakistan Army has been deployed to control the situation of the area. Local administration has issued orders for the closure of all the government, non-government offices and educational institutions for an indefinite period. According to details, Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) was observing a shutter down strike for the release of their arrested leader Attaullah Saqib, who was taken into custody in the last week of March for alleged involvement in an incident in which some miscreants had opened fire on a procession soon after the Kohistan carnage.
The rioters ran amok when police refused to release some of their arrested colleagues allegedly involved in firing on a rally. The enraged mob blocked the road by burning and incidents of aerial firing were also reported. Some unknown men hurled hand grenades at Ittehad Chowk that injured two policemen and a passerby. The local administration is trying to control the situation, while curfew has been clamped the area for an indefinite period, but the gunshots can still be heard, restricting students and office workers to their respective institutes.
It is pertinent to mention here that a complete shutter-down strike was observed against the arrest of ASWJ leader Attaullah Saqib, who is said to be chief of Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) Gilgit chief. “The unknown gunmen opened fire on a group of Sunnis while they were appealing to people to shut their shops in response to the strike call,” senior local police official Ali Sher told AFP. In the February incident, gunmen disguised in military fatigues hauled 18 Shiite Muslim men off buses and shot them dead in cold blood in the northern district of Kohistan, which neighbours the Swat valley, a former Taliban stronghold.
A local intelligence official, who did not want to be identified, confirmed Tuesday’s death toll and also said a hand grenade had been used.“But we still don’t know who the attackers were,” he said. “What we can say at the moment is that tensions have been mounting high between Shiite and Sunni population in the area for the last many weeks.” Human rights groups have heavily criticised the Pakistani government for failing to crack down on sectarian violence between the country’s majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslim communities that has killed thousands.