Karachi carnage traumatises nation

By Imtiaz Ali | 5/14/2015

KARACHI: Giving the lie to law-enforcement agencies` claims of having restored peace in Karachi, heavily armed militants struck on Wednesday morning and, in one of the most organised and ruthless attacks in the city`s history, killed 43 commuters belonging to the Shia Ismaili community in a bus near Safoora Goth.

Seventeen women were also among those who lost their lives in the attack that lasted a few minutes. Eight other people, including six women, were wounded in the shooting. Two of them are in critical condition.

The brazen assault sent ripples through the power corridors of Islamabad and Rawalpindi from where the prime minister and the army chief flew to Karachi, sat together with the representatives of law-enforcement agencies and decided to step up the `targeted operation` in the city, officials said. `Forty-three people were killed in the attack,` Inspector General of Sindh police Ghulam Hyder Jamali said while talking to journalists after visiting the crime scene.

`We examined a total of 43 bodies at a makeshift mortuary like facility at the Memon Medical Institute/Hospital, said police surgeon Dr Jalil Qadir.

The dead--17womenand26 men -were aged between 18 and 72. A man and a woman, having bullet wounds in their heads and being in critical condition, were examined by medico-legal officers (MLOs) there.

`Most of the dead sustained a single bullet wound each in their heads,` said the police surgeon.

Bullets were recovered from the bodies of a man and a woman and handed over to the investigators.

`Two men and a woman also sustained cuts [of a sharp-edged weapon] besides firearm wounds,` said Dr Jalil Qadir. He termed the injuries a `surprising and unusual thing`, saying the cuts were deep and might have been caused by `an axe like thing` Five of the six wounded women were admitted to the Aga Khan University Hospital, a hospital source said. All of them were adult and out of danger, he said,adding that at night 30 bodies were brought to the AKUH mortuary before their burial.

Police and investigators said investigations into the deadliest attack in the recent violent history of Karachi were open, though the investigators found pamphlets at the crime scene allegedly left behind by the attackers, which read `advent of Islamic State (also known as Daish) news to Rawafidhs` terrible fate`.

Although police were waiting for statements of wounded people for eyewitness account, facts that emerged by late night suggested that the attack was carried out by gunmen riding motorcycles. They intercepted the bus before four of them entered the vehicle and shot the passengers from a very close range, police sources said.

More than 50 people belonging to the Ismaili community and residents of the community developed residential project Al-Azhar Garden, left their apartments as a routine when they met the deadly fate just a couple of kilometers from their homes.

The incident occurred at around 9.15am near the Inara Garden residential complex, also inhabited by the Ismaili community, on a pot-holed road which links Safoora Goth with the Super highway.

Qasim Ali, honorary secretary general of the Al-Azhar Garden Welfare Society, told Dawn on the spot that according to survivors, the attackers were in police uniforms.

However, Inspector Tariq Jadoon, who was collecting evidence from the site, told reporters that they had found a `blue colour cap` of a security guard in the bus, adding that they might be in uniform of private security guards. The officer said the attackers used .9mm pistols, SMGs and other weapons.

Qasim Ali said the bus left Al-Azhar Garden at around 9am and was on its way, via the Superhighway, to Ayesha Manzil and Karimabad, where the community members worked. The bus had been using that route for 10 years, he added.

In the past, the community changed the route and time of the bus for security concerns, but for the past four months the bus, with `Al-Azhar Garden` written on it, used that route as both `police and Rangers keep informing the citizens that security has been improved`.

`Before shooting passengers at point-blank range, four gunmen ordered them to bow down, Mr Ali said while quoting two women survivors who took shelter in nearby Inara Garden. He also showed a blood-stained pamphlet to Dawn found on the spot.

Nazar Ali, a member of the board of directors of Al-Azhar Garden, told Dawn that the bus used that route five times daily.

He said that after entering the bus, the gunmen first shot the driver dead. The bus conductor, who was wounded in the attack, drove the vehicle towards the Memon Medical Institute/ Hospital, located two to three kilometres from the crime scene.

A post of the Sachal police station was situated at a stone`s throw from the crime scene but it was unmanned at the time.

A watchman in an under-construction house near the crime scene told Dawn that he heard scores of gunshots before seeing blood splashed on the bus windows.

`I was in the house when I heard the firing,` he said on condition of anonymity. `I shut the door as I was scared and peeped outside through the window. I saw the stationary bus on the main road a few meters from my house. There was no more firing but I could only see blood coming out of its windows,` he said.

Till 11.53am investigators had not secured the crime scene.

A senior police officer was seen approaching watchmen and other people in the nearby under-construction multi-storey buildings and homes apparently to get some clue to the attackers, but he stopped inquiries when this reporter also arrived there.

A man at roadside nursery there said that only G-17 minibus ran on that route.

Memon Hospital security supervisor Rana M. Razzaq, with blood-stained uniform, told Dawn that they had received over 40 people dead on arrival. He quoted a girl as saying that she hid herself behind the seats and survived.

The ill-fated bus was parked near the emergency section of the hospital. It was pockmarked by two bullets in its middle on its right while its windows were shattered.

Blood was spread outside the emergency gate where Edhi`s `mobile mortuary ambulance` was parked to carry the bodies. One Edhi volunteer said the mobile mortuary ambulance could accommodate up to 12 bodles.

Some of the dead were identified as Imtiaz Kareem, Mohsin Mansoor, Nizam Shamsudin, 30; Shaukat Ali, 45; Sheeraz Ali, 30; zulfiqar Ali, 30; Liaquat Noor, 60; Nazar Ali, 35; Ali Shah, 18; Raheem Manjee, 48; Noor Mohammed, 72; Abdul Ali, 62; Ramzan Wali, 52; Sultan, 22; Sadaruddin Wali, 70; Sani Sultan, 22; Nazar Ali, 70; Rajab Ali, 60; Javed Dilawar, 35; Sohail Sultan, Shaukat Nazar, Nazar Noorjee, Anees Akbar, 27; Hussain Sultan, 30; and Saeed, 45.

Probe body formed IG Ghulam Hyder Jamali formed a committee headed by the additional IGP Karachi to investigate the incident. Deputy inspectors general of Karachi`s districts east, west and CIA and the SSPs of east and Malir were other members of the committee, a Sindh police spokesman said.

IS claims responsibility Khorasan province, a division of the Islamic State (IS) in the Afghan-Pakistan region, claimed the deadly attack on the bus. In a message on Twitter, the group said 43 `apostates` were killed and more than 30 wounded in the attack. It did not give details of the attack.

The Aga Khan shocked Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, said in a statement that the attack might be `political or sectarian in nature`. He expressed shock and sadness over the attack.

`This attack represents a senseless act of violence against a peaceful community. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families of those killed and wounded in the attack,` said the Aga Khan.

He said the Ismailis were a peaceful global community living in harmony with other religious and ethnicgroups in many countries across the world, including the Muslim world.

Ismaili leaders in Pakistan are currently involved in an emergency operation trying to help the survivors of the attack. It was not immediately clear what the perpetrators` motives were. `They may have been political or sectarian in nature,` said the statement issued to the media.

The attackers` method The modus operandi of the attackers was similar to the Suparco bus attack of 2004 near Mowachh Goth, recalled Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) officer Raja Umer Khattab. Both attacks were apparently motivated by sectarianism.

He said the suspects in the Suparco bus attack had been arrested and found to be belonging to the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.

Raja Khattab said this was a second such attack in the city where a pamphlet was left behind by purported members of Islamic State. In the previous attack on American academic Dr Debra Lobo, assailants had thrown an identical pamphlet at the crime scene. In both leaflets, the assailants claimed that the attack was in reaction to the killing of five militants belonging to Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent group in the Rangers` `encounter` in Keamari.

Referring to the recent targeted killing of the two DSPs, the CTD officer apprehended that `profile of the militants is rising` He feared emergence of a more `dangerous situation` if this nexus of militants was not broken soon enough.

Raja Khattab said this was also the first attack in which SMGs were used and added that the weapons might have been snatched from policemen they had earlier shot dead.

`Security guards or private persons cannot carry such SMGs and it was possible that the attackers wore police uniforms, but so far no concrete evidence has emerged,` said the CTD officer.

He said the wounded conductor drove the bus to the Memon Hospital. He told the investigators that he could not see the assailants as he took shelter behind the victims of the attack.

Meanwhile, the Aga Khan University and Education Board announced on its website that the `examinations will be conducted tomorrow (Thursday, May)

Published in Dawn