KARACHI, Oct 3: Six people were shot dead and seven others wounded when a bus carrying employees of the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Organization (Suparco) for Friday prayers was ambushed by armed men on the Hub River Road here.

The Suparco bus, with 35 employees, dropped some people at one mosque and then proceeded towards an Imambargah near the Baba Wilayat Shah shrine to drop the remaining persons. As it reached the junction of a link road and the Hub River Road, three unidentified armed men on a motorcycle intercepted it and sprayed it with bullets.

The shooting took only a few minutes, and the assailants sped away without facing any resistance.

Five people died on the spot and eight others were wounded, two of them seriously. Edhi ambulances shifted the bodies to the Rizvia Imambargah. The dead were identified as Athar Ali, 30; bus driver Mohammad Qasim, 50; Hashim Raza, 40; Raza Ali, 40; and Hawaldar Mohammad Rafiq Shahid, 40.

The victims were first taken to the nearby Murshid Hospital. Later, the injured were shifted to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and the Civil Hospital.

One Suparco employee, Syed Wasiul Hasan Zaidi, who was operated upon at the Civil Hospital, succumbed to injuries.

The injured taken to the JPMC were Munawar Ali Zaidi, 26; Asghar Zaidi, 30; Syed Itrat Hussain, 40; Ali Hussain, 30; Asif Ali Jafri, 38; Aslam Abbas, 45; and Pervez, 42.

DIG Operations Tariq Jamil termed the incident a sectarian killing and said an investigation had been initiated.

Police refused to speculate as to whether the killings were motivated by any particular incident. However, the police suspected the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi behind the killing.

SSP Investigation Zone-IV, Niaz Ahmed Khoso, told Dawn that the bus had left Suparco around 12:45pm. It stopped at the junction of the link road and the Hub River Road near the Suparco checkpost where some people got down, and 13 employees remained on board.

Witnesses told the police that as the bus driver went towards the Imambargah, three motorcyclists intercepted it. Two of them, holding sub-machine-guns, sprayed the vehicle with bullets. Police found 35 spent shells on the spot.

All the assailants were masked, Mr Khoso said, and added: “The incident took place in front of the security personnel at the Suparco checkpost but they could do nothing as they were unarmed.”

Following the incident, the Hub River Road was closed for traffic for some time as ambulances and police vans rushed to the scene.

Five bodies of those killed were sent to the Rizvia Imambargah for final rites amidst a tense atmosphere in the area.

A heavy contingent of police and Rangers was deployed to maintain peace. The funeral prayers for three of them would be held there on Saturday after Zuhr prayers.

The body of Raza Ali was being sent to his native Multan city and the body of Mohammad Rafiq was received by his family. The body of Mohammad Qasim was taken away by his family to Korangi No2 1/2 for offering funeral prayers at a mosque. He belonged to interior of Sindh.

The news of the killing spread like wildfire and tension was felt even in other localities such as Ancholi Society, Abbas Town, Jaffar-i-Tayyar Society. Shops were closed in these localities in mourning. A demonstration was held in front of Shah-i-Khurasan near Purani Numaish.

On Aug 16, a well-known doctor was shot dead in a sectarian killing in Malir. Earlier, five brothers were shot dead on Aug 9 on Jahangir Road by some motorcyclists.

An activist of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, Saadat Ali, was shot dead in New Karachi and Syed Mohabat Hussain Naqvi, 55, was killed in Nazimabad on June 12 in sectarian killing.

On Feb 27, two owners of a bakery were shot dead on M.A. Jinnah Road. Nine people were shot dead on Feb 22 by two motorcyclists outside Imambargah Muntazirul Mehdi in Al-Falah Society, Malir.

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