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LAHORE: In a shocking incident, two young hired assassins shot dead a passenger and a taxi driver in the crowded but high security zone of the Allama Iqbal International Airport here on Wednesday.

The shooting left three other persons wounded who were said to be stable at local hospitals where they were shifted on private transport.

The suspects carrying weapons reached the international arrival lounge by breaching all security checks.

As soon as passengers came out of the arrival lounge after the landing of an international flight, they sprayed a volley of bullets, injuring five persons, including their prime target Zain Ali alias Nafees (30) of Lakhodair (Manawan area of Lahore).

Zain had returned from Saudi Arabia after performing Umrah. He was nominated accused in the murder case of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Babar Butt who was assassinated in March 2017.

Some witnesses told media that the massive fire in the high security zone of the heavily crowded airport not only exposed the security lapses but also caused panic among passengers, visitors and the staff, leading to a stampede like situation there.

They said several families, including women and children, were present at the shooting scene to receive their beloved ones arriving from abroad when the gunmen resorted to heavy firing.

Police constable Zeshan overpowered the suspects with the help of some people and handed them over to the Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel.

The armed men were later identified as Shan, a resident of Shadbagh and Arshad of Batapur.

Lahore Operations DIG Ashfaq Ahmad Khan told Dawn both the suspects were hired assassins with criminal record.

Declaring the armed attack an outcome of an old enmity between two groups of Manawan area, the DIG said Shan was hired by Babar But’s brother Qaiser Butt from Dubai.

He said Shan was a professional hired assassin and had already killed a young man in Gujjarpura area some years back.

Having no regrets, Shan told the police that it was not his first ‘case’ to kill people for money.

The DIG further said that the suspects believed the airport premises were relatively safe place for them to accomplish their task because they knew well that no one was allowed to carry weapons there.

Consequently, they killed unarmed Zain, said the police officer quoting Shan in custody.

Occurred at around 10am, the attack exposed the inability of the Airport Security Force (ASF) to detect weapons in vehicles. The suspects dodged the security personnel at the entry point of the airport by concealing weapons under the seats of the cab.

The CCTV and mobile phone footage later showed two seriously wounded men in a pool of blood, one of them died on the spot with some women crying near his body.

Cantt Division SP Operations Safdar Raza Kazmi told media that Zain alias Nafees had arrived at the airport after performing Umrah and his relatives were present there to receive him.

He said another man injured critically was a taxi driver, Mohammad Akram. He was shifted to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Father of five, Akram was present there to pick passengers, he said.

The police said that the three other persons had received minor injuries and were also taken to local hospitals.

According to the police, Zain was arrested in the murder of the PPP leader in October 2017 but he got bail some two weeks later.

The police shifted bodies of the deceased persons to the city morgue for autopsy and started further investigation.

This was not the first such attack at the Lahore airport. Earlier, ‘gangster’ Arif Amir alias Tipu Truckanwala, was shot dead by his rivals at the airport parking lot in 2010.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2019