45 killed in attack on bus carrying Ismalia community members in Karachi; Jundullah group claims responsibility
KARACHI: At least 45 people were killed on Wednesday when gunmen attacked on a bus carrying members of the Ismalia community in Karachi, Pakistani metropolis become the focus of sectarian violence tearing the country prey to a rise of fundamentalism.
According to eyewitnesses, at least six armed men on three motorcycles opened fire on a bus carrying sixty Ismailis, a minority sect of Shiite Islam, as it was travelling through the Safoora Chowk.
“The attackers began the assault by opening fire on the driver. When the bus stopped, they fired indiscriminately on the passengers,” before escaping from the scene, said Najeeb Ahmed Khan, senior police officer.
After the attack, the stained pink bus with blood on its exterior and on the benches inside was taken near the local hospital where relatives of the victims rushed in the hope of finding survivors among a dozen injured, or to collect spoils.
“I came to recover the body of my young son. He was a student and was preparing to spend his first exams in high school,” breathed with difficulty, a man with a voice choked with sobs.
According to a new police report, 45 people, including at least 16 women, were killed in the latest attack targeting minority Ismaili community, which represents about 20% of the population of Pakistan, a country of 200 million inhabitants in Sunni majority.
Hospital officials reported 45 people dead and another dozen injured in one of the worst sectarian slaughters in the city for years.
Saleem, a surviving passenger who was rushed to hospital with arm and leg wounds, said the gunmen began systematically executing people after climbing onto the bus.
“I saw five armed men who started targeting passengers individually,” he said.
“They want to target us because we are not Muslims according to most people in Pakistan,” he said.
The passengers were nearly all Ismailis, members of an international community of Muslims who follow the Aga Khan, the Europe-based spiritual leader and business tycoon.
Regular murders of individual Shias – often members of the medical profession – are punctuated by occasional mass killings, such as the March 2013 bombing of a Shia neighbourhood, which gutted blocks of flats and left nearly 50 people dead.
“The target of the attack was a lot of (Shia) innocent Ismailis,” Sindh police chief Ghulam Haider Jamali confirmed to AFP, accusing without details, “terrorists” and “extremists” of having led the bloody raid.
He added that the armed men used 9mm pistols in the massacre. The attackers managed to flee after the attack.
Rana M Razzaq, a security coordinator at the Memon Medical Center, said that, “One young girl hid and survived. Three or four others who were brought to the hospital have survived…the rest are all dead.”
A survivor of the attack recorded her statement before the police and said that the attackers entered the bus from the rear portion a few minutes after its departure.
She added that the occupants of the bus thought that robbers had embarked on the vehicle.
The assailants subdued the driver and separated (two) children from the others, the victims said and added that, “They told the passengers to keep their head low. One of the attackers situated in the rear side of the bus then ordered his associates to ‘shoot every one’ after which they indiscriminately targeted all passengers of the bus.”
All attackers were speaking fluent Urdu according to the survivor.
Secretary Al Azhar Garden said that the bus leaves daily at 9am and has been operating for the past 10 years. Today it was attacked around 9:30 am, he said.
A rescue official quoted a victim as saying that the attackers were dressed in police uniforms.
Investigation Officer Tariq Jadoon said that some blue caps, which are used by security guards, have also been recovered from the crime scene along with 9mm casings.
A senior police official, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to the media, said that the attackers entered the bus and shot the passengers in the head.
“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.
ISLAMIC STATE CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
The armed group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility of the attack.
This is the first time that the Sunni extremist group, including raging in Syria and Iraq, officially claiming an attack on the Pakistan-Afghanistan area.
“God thank you, 43 apostates were killed and about 30 injured in the attack carried out by soldiers of the Islamic State on a bus carrying Ismaili Shia infidels in the city of Karachi,” says IS in a statement posted by “the Province of Khorasan” on jihadist websites.
The creation of the “Province of Khorasan,” which includes Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of India, was announced by the IS in January 2015.
The Islamic State group responsible for atrocities proclaimed in June 2014 a “caliphate” on Islamic territories it controls horseback between Iraq and Syria. They also claimed bloody attacks in Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.
Ahmed Marwat, a spokesman for Jundullah which is a splinter group of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In recent years, attacks have increased in Pakistan, the second country after Shi’ite Iran against members of the Shi’a Muslim minority, accused by Sunni extremists want to import the “Iranian revolution” and embody a current “deviant” in relation to a supposed Muslim orthodoxy.
The attacks were concentrated in Quetta (southwest), Parachinar (northwest), Gilgit (northeast), but increasingly in Karachi megalopolis of 20 million people regularly bereaved by clashes between armed groups linked to political parties vying for control of the territory.
Pakistani security forces had launched in autumn 2013 an operation to restore law and order situation in the economic metropolis of the country, where more than 2,000 people were murdered in this year.
Army Chief General Raheel Sharif has canceled an official three-day visit to Sri Lanka due to the new anti-Shia attack in Karachi.
Since the Taliban raid in a school in Peshawar killing 154 people – most of them were students – in December, Pakistan has intensified its fight against terrorism, lifted its moratorium on the death penalty and executed a hundred death row, a last measure deemed inefficient the human rights organizations for which the return of the death penalty has no “chilling.”
Sindh Minister for Agriculture Ali Nawaz Khan Mahar has strongly condemned the killing of innocent citizens near Safoora Goth. The Minister expressed his sympathy with the relatives of the deceased persons. He said stern action will be taken against the culprits so that no such incidents occur in future.
MQM chief Altaf Hussain has strongly condemned the deadly attack on a bus near Safoora Chowrangi in Karachi resulting in the death of over 45 people. He expressed his deep sense of grief and sorrow on the horrific killings. Altaf Hussain said that the firing on a bus was the worst kind of terrorism, and those who are involved in this gory incident are cold-blooded killers. He said, “Doctors, professors, engineers, religious scholars, traders and ordinary people are being gunned down on the streets of Karachi on a daily basis. The brutal killing of people near Safoora Chowrangi has exposed the failure of the Sindh Government and law-enforcing agencies in bringing peace in the city.” Mr. Altaf Hussain said that instead of going after terrorists, peaceful workers of the MQM are being victimized and implicated in fabricated cases. “Every effort is being made to defame the MQM by subjecting it to a worst kind of media trial.” He said that the Sindh Government and the law-enforcing agencies did not take any action against the criminals and terrorist elements. It was because of this inaction that terrorists were carrying out their activities unstoppably. He said that the Safoora Chowrangi tragedy has made it clear for everyone to see that criminal elements and terrorists are free to operate.
The spiritual leader of the Ismaili community His Highness Aga Khan has expressed shock and sorrow over the attack on a bus carrying Ismailis near Safoora Chowk in Karachi which left 45 dead and 13 wounded. “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 a statement posted on the Aga Khan Development Network website. The statement said that Ismailis are peaceful global community that lives in harmony with various other ethnic and religious groups across the world. The statement added that other Ismaili leaders in Pakistan are currently involved in an emergency operation to help the survivors of the attack.
On behalf of the American people, U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson has extended his deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims of Wednesday’s heinous bus attack in Karachi, and strongly condemned this senseless terrorist act. He said the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the people of Pakistan in their efforts to counter terrorism, and supports the right of every person to worship as they choose, without fear of intimidation, coercion or violence. “We support Pakistan’s efforts to bring all those involved to justice and stand ready to provide any appropriate assistance to authorities investigating this tragic attack,” he added.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah strongly condemned the firing incident and condoled with the victims. He said it was a planned conspiracy to create a sense of insecurity and fear among the people. He said the government will trace out the culprits and bring them to justice. The Chief Minister announced a compensation of five lakh rupees for each dead and two lakh each to seriously injured people. He said the injured would be provided best medical treatment at government cost. He said the government would see if it was a security lapse. He ordered immediate suspension of the area’s Station House Officer (SHO) and Deputy 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.”
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.
President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif have strongly condemned the firing incident in Karachi. In their separate statements they expressed deep grief and sorrow over the loss of lives in this act of terrorism.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has sought complete report of the incident from the concerned authorities.
Similarly, Governor Punjab Rafiq Rajwana, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, the Interior Minister Chudhary Nisar Khan and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Speaker and Deputy Speaker National Assembly have also strongly condemned the incident.
The Information Minister said that such incidents could not weaken our firm resolve to eliminate terrorism from the country.
QAIM REFUSES TO RESIGN
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah on Wednesday rejected calls for his resignation in the wake of massacre of members of the Ismaili community in a deadly attack on a bus in Karachi. Qaim Ali Shah defended his government, saying that he would have resigned if his performance was not up to mark. “We are looking after 60 million people of this province. 25 million live in Karachi alone,” he said. “Such incidents happened in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhhwa also, why nobody asked for their resignations,” he questioned. “We will go after terrorists who have claimed responsibility for the heinous attack,” he said. The chief minister said that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the assault. “It is a big challenge for us, but we will eliminate people involved in the carnage,” he added.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday strongly condemned terrorist attack on a bus in Karachi and expressed his deep sorrow and grief over the loss of innocent lives. “It is heart wrenching and saddening to know innocent civilians have been killed in Karachi”, he said in a statement. Imran said, “I am stunned and grieved at most condemnable terror attack in Karachi on citizens belonging to a most peaceful community.” He demanded an immediate investigation of the incident, adding strict action must be taken against perpetrators of this heinous act. Imran Khan also stressed to ensure maximum treatment facilities and utmost care for the injured in the attack.
Jamaat e Islami members of the parliament separate submitted adjournments motions in the Senate and the National Assembly secretariat against the terrorist attack at the bus of the Ismailia community in Karachi on Wednesday, resulting in 45 deaths. The adjournment motion in the upper house has been tabled by the Ameer, JI Pakistan, Senator Sirajul Haq. It said that the terrorist attack at the Ismailia community bus was a most cowardly and condemnable incident in which innocent men, women, children and the aged had lost their lives. The adjournment motion in the National Assembly has been moved jointly by JI MNAs Sahib Zada Muhammad Yaqub, Sahib Zada Tariqullah, Sher Akbar Jan and lady MNA Aisha Syed.