KARACHI: The launch of a campaign to deal with the growing street crimes by the new city police chief suffered a blow within 48 hours on Tuesday, when the menace claimed the life of a seven-year-old girl as she was caught in crossfire between police and bandits who were robbing her family when the law enforcement agency personnel spotted and challenged them, officials said. One of the suspects was also killed.

Police were not sure whether the bullet which hit the girl was fired by policemen or bandits, but vowed to investigate the incident. They were waiting for a medico-legal examination report of the girl’s body. However, the shootout came as continuation of the grim trend of street crimes and facts linked with the incident paint a depressing picture of the city’s security when it comes to street crimes.

“Those two armed bandits had successfully carried out some five jobs within two hours while travelling in a rickshaw amid Independence Day celebrations,” said a police official associated with the probe of the incident. “This was their third job when they intercepted a family in the car near Gizri. Before meeting the police encounter, they looted people near Frere Hall, Baloch Colony, Korangi Industrial Area, Qayyumabad and at another place before intercepting the family in a car.”

Young man dies in explosion of fireworks material

As the bandits, he said, were busy in looting cash and valuables from the family, personnel of the Defence police station spotted them. He added that a police party which was on patrol was informed by a couple of families that at least two armed men in a rickshaw were intercepting passersby and snatching their valuables at gunpoint.

“After some efforts, the police spotted two of the bandits [in Akhtar Colony]. As our mobile van approached them, one of them fired shots at us and the situation sparked an exchange of gunfire. One of the bandits was killed and the other ran away,” added the official. However, when the guns fell silent after a few minutes, the girl, named Amal, in the car was also found dead.

‘Which bullet hit the girl?’

The police in their first interaction with the media pretended that it was firing from the bandits that killed the girl during mugging over resistance from her family before the police intercepted them, which sparked an encounter. But deepening doubts around the incident and questions forced the law enforcement agency to come up with the facts.

“Actually this all happened during the encounter, but we are not sure that which bullet actually hit the girl,” said SSP South Omar Shahid Hamid. “It was a live encounter and the police responded to the firing from the bandits who had executed some half a dozen mugging jobs within two hours. We are waiting for a detailed autopsy report from the medico-legal section to ascertain the facts about the incident and identify the people whose firing caused her death.”

The fresh incident once again smashed the claims of the security administration and law enforcement agencies, which have succeeded to improve the security situation in the city to a large extent, but have so far failed to curb street crimes.

Only last week terming increasing street crimes a big challenge for police force, new Karachi police chief Dr Amir Ahmed Shaikh had announced launching of a campaign to deal with the menace, asking people to send their complaints on a WhatsApp number for prompt action. The new city police chief had said that curbing street crimes would be his first priority while admitting that complaints of around 40 to 50 victims were being lodged at the city police stations daily.

Young man killed in explosion

A 22-year-old man, Salman, died in an explosion of fireworks substance, the Karachi police media cell said on Tuesday. Hospitals across the city treated patients injured in celebratory firing.

Of those injured by stray bullets, 15 were taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and five to the Civil Hospital. The injuries took place in different parts of the city, including North Nazimabad, Korangi and New Karachi.

At least 39 people were injured by stray bullets as Karachiites turned to celebratory firing to herald the country’s Independence Day while a young man died after sustaining burn wounds during fireworks in North Nazimabad, officials said.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2018