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ISLAMABAD: An Intelligence Bureau (IB) official was killed and four others injured when gunmen attacked an imambargah in the capital on Wednesday evening, police said.

The attack occurred outside Imambargah Babul Ilm, located in I-8/2, when people were coming out after offering Maghreb prayers.

“Gunmen on two motorcycles were lying in wait near the imambargah and opened fire when worshippers began to exit the gate,” eyewitnesses told police, saying that the men were targeted from two sides.

Only volunteers were managing security of imambargah, despite high alert ahead of Eid Miladun Nabi

The firing continued for a couple of minutes, and the gunmen then fled the scene. Police said four persons were injured in the attack, while IB Naib Constable Syed Hubdar Hussain Shah was killed on the spot. Two of the injured men are said to be in critical condition.

Those injured were identified as Sayed Razi Shah, Syed Ain Zaidi, Syed Nadeem Hussain and Dr Inayat, the police stated.

A senior police officer told Dawn that preliminarily investigations and eyewitness accounts suggested that the attackers were armed with pistols and a repeater or a Kalashnikov. The man with the pistol targeted the worshippers and continued until his magazine was empty.

“The other gunman could not get many rounds off as his weapon malfunctioned,” the officer said, adding that he was seen by few eyewitness as struggling with the gun. There would have been more injuries or deaths had the weapon worked, he said.

Police had combed the crime scene to collect any evidence, he said, adding that so far, 15 casings of 9mm rounds had been collected.

So far, it is yet to be established whether the motive was sectarian, terrorism or whether this was a targeted killing, the officer stated.

Another officer told Dawn that police had sought assistance from the Safe City Project and a team was examining CCTV footage of the incident.

Security around the imambargah had been reduced in recent days and only volunteers were guarding it, he added.

This is surprising, since Imambargah Babul Ilm is one of the most sensitive buildings in the capital, placed in ‘Category A’ by the capital administration.

All of I-8 had been on high alert since Nov 8, when a religious group staged a sit-in at the adjacent Faizabad Intersection.

Following the attack, protesters gathered near I-8 Markaz and staged a demonstration against the targeting of Shias. They demanded proper security for places of worship and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice as soon as possible.

This attack comes as a sensitive time; just a week after the chehlum of Imam Hussain and only days ahead of Eid Miladun Nabi, which falls on Dec 1. As such, security in the capital is supposed to be on high alert.

This sector has seen several incidents of violence in the past. In Jan 2014, two gunmen assassinated the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat’s (ASWJ) Islamabad chapter General Secretary Mufti Munir Muawia and his companion Qari Asad Mehmood. Muawia had been released on bail from Adiala Jail just a day earlier.

In June 2011, a suicide attack in I-8 Markaz killed two persons and injuring four. The target was a private bank, but the blast was so devastating that it damaged several buildings and vehicles in the vicinity.

In Mar 2011, Minister for Religious Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was also assassinated in the same locality.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2017