KARACHI: A formal police investigation was launched into the deadly attack on the vehicle of a TV news channel on Sunday, with two separate teams of investigators being formed on Monday as the chief minister sought daily progress report of the investigation, while the interior minister assured the TV channel of early arrest of the culprits.

A 22-year-old assistant cameraman, Taimur Abbas, who had been associated with Samaa TV for the past 18 months, was killed in the gun attack on the digital satellite news gathering van (DSNG) of the private channel in North Nazimabad on Sunday evening.

Journalists, photographers, camerapersons and other media workers staged protest demonstrations in different parts of the province against the latest killing and frequent attacks on media workers.

Funeral prayer for Abbas, the only brother of his two sisters and sole breadwinner in the family, were offered in Orangi Town on Monday. Besides family and friends, leaders of political and religious parties and senior police officials and media persons attended the funeral before his burial at Paposh Nagar graveyard.

Karachi Central SSP Muqaddas Haider, who is leading one of the two teams of police investigators, said that seven spent bullet casings of 9mm pistols were collected from the crime scene and sent to the police forensic department. The forensic report showed that none of the two weapons had been used in any previous act of terrorism, he said.

He said the DSNG van came under attack from two sides, indicating the involvement of more than two suspects. Karachi Central SSP (Investigation) Dr Samiullah Soomro, who is leading the other team of investigators, said efforts were under way to ascertain if the latest incident was linked to some previous terror attacks in recent weeks in the North Nazimabad area, including a grenade attack on the Taimuria police station, Imambargah near Shahrah-i-Noorjehan and gun attack on Bohra community that left one person dead.

No CCTV footage

He said the police were also consulting intelligence agencies for joint efforts to check the violent trend. “There was no CCTV camera at the crime scene. The footage from the CCTV cameras mounted on poles across the road was examined but it was of no use,” the officer said.

He said Samaa TV crew had arrived in the area for news coverage of a cracker attack on an armoured personnel carrier of police. He added that the police would conduct raids to pick up suspects involved in criminal activities for interrogation.

Meanwhile, Additional IG Karachi Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar on Monday announced a reward of Rs1 million for anyone providing information leading to the arrest of the culprits.

The North Nazimabad police registered an FIR (28/2017) against unidentified suspects on charges of murder and terror on a complaint of another Samaa cameraman, Syed Imtiaz Ali, who accompanied the victim.

Separately, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah announced a compensation of Rs1 million for the victim’s family and sought progress report of the investigation on a daily basis.

It was after a long time that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (Khorasani), claimed responsibility of such an attack, as previously the banned outfit had claimed responsibility of the Quetta attack last year, said Raja Umer Khattab, official of the Counter-Terrorism Department who had been dealing with terror cases for past many years.

He said the militant Islamic State group, or Daesh, had been claiming responsibility for such attacks through their website. He believed that ‘sleeper cells’ of banned organisations carried out terror activities after an interval before becoming dormant again.

Referring to previous attacks on a police station, traffic police and an Imambargah in Karachi’s Central District, the CTD official said they were working to ascertain as to whether one or more groups were involved in all these incidents. He believed that the DSNG van was targeted because it was a ‘soft target’ and could get maximum media coverage. He said as the van did not carry the name of the channel, it was possible that the attackers did not particularly target the channel. However, he said, the suspects who had earlier lobbed a cracker at an APC in North Nazimabad might be involved in the deadly gun attack on the van.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan contacted chief operating officer of Samaa TV, Naveed Siddiqui, over the phone and assured him that that the law-enforcement agencies were striving to apprehend the culprits. He said he was personally monitoring the investigation of the case.

He strongly condemned the attack and expressed sympathy with the bereaved family.

Protests across Sindh A number of reporters, photographers, cameramen and media workers staged demonstration outside the local press club on Monday in protest against the killing of assistant cameraman Taimur and the attack on the DSNG van.

In Khairpur, journalists participating in the protest wore black armbands to express their anger over the attack. Protest demonstrations were also held in Badin, Talhar, Tando Bago, Matli, Golarchi and other towns of Sindh.

Published in Dawn February 14th, 2017