KARACHI: At least 43 people were killed and 13 others wounded on Wednesday when armed men opened fire inside a bus carrying members of the Ismaili community near Safoora Chowk in Karachi.
Sindh Police Inspector General Ghulam Haider Jamali said that 60 people were on board the bus when six gunmen entered and executed 43 passengers.
He added that the armed men used 9mm pistols in the massacre. The attackers managed to flee after the attack.
Hospital sources have so far confirmed that the dead include 25 men and 16 women. Police officials said that there were no children among the casualties.
Rana M Razzaq, a security coordinator at the Memon Medical Center, told Dawn that, “One young girl hid and survived. Three or four others who were brought to the hospital have survived…the rest are all dead.”
Jundullah claims attack
Ahmed Marwat, a spokesman for Jundullah which is a splinter group of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), talking to Reuters claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Al Qaeda affiliated group that started off from South Waziristan has targetted Shia minorities and foreign tourists in the past as well. In November last year, the group had pledged support to Islamic State (IS).
A view of a pamphlet left by the attackers at the scene of attack.
In the past, the proscribed group has claimed several attacks including a blast near the Wagah border in November 2014 and the July 2013 attack on the compound of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in Sukkur. It has also claimed the several attacks on polio workers across the country.
Attackers entered bus and fired
An eye-witness said around six to eight men riding three to four motorcycles opened indiscriminate fire on the bus. However, video footage of the pink bus does not show bullet holes on the body of the vehicle, suggesting that the attackers entered and killed the passengers.
A rescue official quoted a victim as saying that the attackers were dressed in police uniforms.Secretary Al Azhar Garden said that the bus leaves daily at 9am and has been operating since the past 10 years. Today it was attacked around 9:30 am, he said.
A rescue official displays casings collected from the scene of an attack on a bus, in Karachi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. — AP
Investigation Officer Tariq Jadoon told Dawn that some blue caps, which are used by security guards, have also been recovered from the crime scene along with 9mm casings.
A plain-clothes police official holds up evidence collected from the scene of an attack by gunmen on a bus carrying Shias in Karachi on May 13, 2015.— AFP
A senior police official, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to the media, told Dawn that the attackers entered the bus and shot the passengers in the head.
“The gunmen stopped the bus and first fired at it from outside,” a policeman told AFP. “Then they entered inside the bus and open fire indiscriminately. After that they checked to see if anyone was left uninjured.”
“The bus had a capacity of 52 passengers but it was overloaded and dozens of people were boarding it. Most of them were from (the) Ismaili community,” he added.
Pakistan has seen a rising tide of sectarian violence in recent years, particularly against Shias — of which the Ismaili community is a sub-sect — who make up around 20 per cent of the country’s predominantly Muslim population.
“The dead and injured have been shifted to the private Memon Medical Center nearby,” an official of the Ismaili National Council, a group which represents the community said.
The bus belongs to the Al-Azhar Garden Colony, which is an Ismaili community housing project in Karachi. It was on its regular route headed towards Federal B Area of Karachi.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah strongly condemned the firing incident and condoled with the victims.CM Sindh, CCPO take notice
He ordered immediate suspension of the area’s Station House Officer (SHO) and District Superintendent of Police (DSP).
“The SHO, DSP have been suspended, we will find out whether the bus had security, whether they had asked for it or not,” the provincial chief minister said. “If there is a security lapse, it will be investigated.”
He announced a compensation of Rs500,000 for the heirs of those killed in the massacre and a Rs200,000 compensation for those wounded in the attack.
Shah also announced that the government will bear all expenses incurred for the treatment of the victims.
Taking notice of the firing incident, Sindh IG Ghulam Haider Jamali directed Additional IG Ghulam Qadir Thebo to immediately submit a preliminary report in this regard, according to a press release.
He also directed security forces to facilitate emergency rescue services in shifting of injured to hospitals for treatment. He ordered the early arrest of criminals involved.
Sindh Inspector General Ghulam Haider Jamali speaking to media representatives after the deadly attack on a bus carrying Ismaili passengers. — DawnNews screengrab
Condemnations pour in
Condemnations poured in soon after today’s deadly attack on the bus. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the incident. He sought a report into the incident and extended condolences over the loss of lives.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also strongly condemned the attack, according to a statement. Bilawal sympathised with the victims and urged for stern action against the terrorists.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan also strongly condemned the attack and expressed grief over the murder of citizens.
He added that this incident raises questions over the provincial government’s performance pertaining to peace in the province. The government must provide complete medical facilities to the injured and take strict action against those responsible for this attack, he said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condemned the attack. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain expressed deep grief and sorrow over the attack. He said this attack is the worst form of terrorism and those behind the attack are savages. Others also took to Twitter to express their grief and condemn the brutal attack.
A community under threat
The Ismailis in Pakistan are a peaceful, progressive and largely apolitical community predominantly working in the health and education sectors.
In the past there has been anti-Ismaili violence in Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan, mostly in the form of communal flare-ups.
In 2013, a bomb attack at Karachi’s Aisha Manzil killed four and injured 42 others. The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had claimed responsibility for the earlier attacks.
Today’s massacre was the worst anti-Shia attack since January 30, when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in the southern Shikarpur district, killing 61.
Anti-Shia attacks have been increasing in recent years in Karachi and also in Quetta, the northwestern area of Parachinar and the far northeastern town of Gilgit.
Around 1,000 Shias have been killed in the past two years in Pakistan, with many of the attacks claimed by the hardline Sunni group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) who view them as heretics.
Ismailis are known for their progressive Islamic views. Their spiritual leader Prince Karim Aga Khan is a globally renowned philanthropist and business magnate.