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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad bureau of the ARY News channel was attacked by unidentified assailants on Wednesday night, leaving at least one channel employee injured.

According to Mohammad Ashraf, the security guard deployed outside the office, two men on a motorcycle without license plates approached the office – located next to a foreign mission in Sector F-7 – and stopped a couple of yards from the gate.

“The men’s faces were covered, but I saw the passenger pull out something, which he flung into the office. This was followed by a loud bang,” he said.

The guard claims that he shot at the men with his 12-bore rifle, but his aim was obscured by a vehicle. “I gave chase on foot, but they managed to escape,” he added.

Omar, a satellite technician, was injured in the explosion, while the glass doors and windows of the office shattered. There were marks on the walls where metal pieces from the improvised explosive device struck.

According to police officials on the scene, it appeared that the device contained a small amount of explosive material – around 70 grams – and was loaded with pellets.


Assailants hurl improvised explosive inside ARY News bureau; pamphlets bearing warnings to media left at scene


The attackers also left behind two pamphlets, one in English and one in Urdu, claiming that the self-styled ‘Islamic State Wilayah Khurasan’ or the Islamic State in Afghanistan – commonly known by its Arabic acronym Daesh – had carried out the attack. However, Inspector General of Police Mohammad Khalid Khattak said it was too early to establish responsibility.

The message called on the channel to stop “siding with the army and government”, “concealing the oppression and transgression of [the] army” and “concealing the numerous cases of arson, burglary and kidnap for ransom, from defenceless Ahlus Sunnah... by the CTD, in the name of operation on terrorists”.

“If the media continues to hide and distort facts and serves... ISPR... we will treat it as a military institution,” the message read.

Condemnation

The attack was immediately condemned by leaders from across the political spectrum. Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, PTI chief Imran Khan, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed and MQM’s Rasheed Godil visited the ARY News office in the aftermath of the attack.

Mr Godil, who was also the target of a near-fatal attack only months ago, said nobody could be subjugated with terror. “We are with you and we feel your pain,” he said.

Despite the claim by Daesh, PML-N MNA Talal Chaudhary MNA voiced his scepticism. “While it is too early to certify the claim, as far as we know Daesh has no footprint in the country,” he said, repeating what the interior minister has been saying for months now, despite the discovery of several terrorist cells linked to the Middle Eastern terrorist group.

However, ARY News anchorperson Rauf Klasra took exception to this assertion, saying that the authorities were in denial.

“People can attack and disappear, remaining untraced forever. What happened to the Islamabad district court attackers – nothing,” he said.

Another anchorperson, Kashif Abbassi, appeared cynical, saying that the electronic media was in a fix.

“There are restrictions imposed on our reporting by Pemra, but at the same time, the terrorists pressurise us to air their views,” Mr Abbasi said. “Right now, who is safe; in the country or in Islamabad,” he asked, rhetorically.

Incidentally the attack on media was held in the federal capital at a time when the authorities are claiming successes against terrorists.

Veteran journalist Nusrat Javeed linked the attack to the recent action against the Jaish-e-Mohammad, whose leader Maulana Masood Azhar was also taken into custody on Wednesday.

“Usually, such attacks only serve to deliver a message to the authorities that if any strong action is taken against banned groups, more attacks could come,” he added.

Regarding the Daesh claim of responsibility, Mr Javeed said, “Daesh is a franchise now, anybody with a grenade can use its name since there is no counter-authority to prove or disapprove the claim.”

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2016