At least six unidentified gunmen stormed a passenger bus in Karachi on Wednesday morning, killing at least 44 passengers and two policemen in a sectarian attack.
A pamphlet found at the site of the attack claimed it had been perpetrated by the Daulatul Islamiyyah Baaqiya, an Islamic State-inspired group. The statement claims the attack was in retaliation to the killing of Lal Masjid students, deaths of terrorists in “staged” encounters by Karachi police, the 2013 killing of Sunni Muslims in Rawalpindi’s sectarian riots of Raja Market, and the “atrocities” committed by “Rawafidh” (a derogatory term usually used to refer to Shia Muslims) in Iraq and Yemen. The militants have also vowed to continue their attacks until Shariah law is implemented in Pakistan and they have “rid this land of” Shia Muslims.
“Initial investigations suggest the armed men were on three motorcycles. They targeted the bus carrying members of the Ismaili Khojas community near the Safura Chorangi area that falls under the jurisdiction of Sachal Sarmast Police Station,” said senior police official Asif Farooqui. Sindh Police chief Ghulam Haider Jamali said the attackers had used semiautomatic weapons and had fled the scene shortly after opening fire on the victims. “Police and Rangers have started a search operation,” he added.
“The priority of the police and rescue teams is to get the wounded to the hospital,” said Farooqui, adding, “there is no doubt that the Ismaili community has been targeted.”
Iqbal Kazmi, in-charge of Edhi Rescue services, confirmed that most victims had been taken to hospital. “Rescue teams have reached the area and shifted 15 dead and 20 wounded to nearby hospitals,” he said.
“I saw five armed men entering the bus and then targeting the passengers one-by-one,” said Saleem, a passenger who was injured in the attack. “It’s clear they targeted us because, according to most people in Pakistan, we are not Muslims,” he added.
Naveed Shah, an eyewitness, said the attackers had forced the driver to stop the bus after opening fire on it. “I think there were six attackers and they opened fire on the bus. Women and children were screaming for help but no one dared risk their life,” he added.
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has announced Rs. 500,000 compensation for the families of the deceased and Rs. 200,000 for the injured. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also taken notice of the matter and directed Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to submit a report on the ongoing investigation.
The bus attack is the worst anti-Shia attack since Jan. 30, when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque in Shikarpur district, killing 61. Anti-Shia attacks have been increasing in recent years in Karachi and also in Quetta, Parachinar and Gilgit. Around 1,000 Shia Muslims 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.