(Clockwise) A police officer carries weapons found at the scene of the attack. Security personnel stand guard inside the Pakistan Stock Exchange building. Policemen and investigators examine the car used by the attackers. The elder brother of a private security guard weeps during his funeral. An image made from video shows an attacker getting out of the car.—Reuters / AP / AFP
(Clockwise) A police officer carries weapons found at the scene of the attack. Security personnel stand guard inside the Pakistan Stock Exchange building. Policemen and investigators examine the car used by the attackers. The elder brother of a private security guard weeps during his funeral. An image made from video shows an attacker getting out of the car.—Reuters / AP / AFP

• Four militants killed in abortive assault
• One police officer, three guards martyred
• Banned BLA claims responsibility; three attackers belonging to Kech identified
• Rangers chief blames Indian spy agency, sleeper cells

KARACHI: The Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) came under attack on Monday morning when four heavily armed assailants lobbed grenades at its entrance and opened fire on security guards and officials before being killed in an exchange of fire that also claimed the lives of a police officer and three guards.

The outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility through social media, but such an attack reflecting “frustration” of Indian agency RAW over peace in Pakistan’s financial hub was not possible without the help of any foreign hostile agency, the chief of paramilitary Rangers later told media.

The attackers arrived in a car and hurled hand grenades at the first gate of the PSX where police challenged them and foiled their attempt to barge into the building, said DIG (South) Sharjeel Kharal, adding that due to the combined efforts of security guards and law enforcement agencies all the attackers were killed. In the exchange of fire, he said, one police officer and three security guards of the PSX embraced martyrdom, while three policemen, one guard and two civilians suffered wounds. “All terrorists were neutralised within eight minutes and routine activities within PSX and outside were restored within 25 minutes,” said the Director General of Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, Major General Omer Ahmed Bukhari. They pulled up at 10.02am and the joint operation of Rangers, police and security guards was completed at 10.10am, according to him.

The Rangers DG said the weapons, including AK-47 rifles and grenades, besides water and food recovered from their possession showed that they had come with the intention of entering the building, killing people or holding hostages.

He said the BLA claimed responsibility through social media and named the attackers but the claim would be determined after investigation.

Three of the attackers were later identified as Salman, Tasleem Baloch and Siraj through their fingerprints, an officer of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Sindh Police Raja Umer Khattab said, adding that they belonged to Ketch area of Balochistan.

He said the car used in the attack had been purchased by Salman from a showroom at Old Sabzimandi on cash. For the purchase, he also submitted his original computerised national identity card that remained in possession of the excise department. The CTD officer said the attackers came from the Gharibabad interchange of Lyari Expressway and used Mauripur Road to reach PSX.

The CTD officer said one attacker was killed at a distance of 25 feet from their car, second at 26 feet, third at 300 feet and fourth at 312 feet. Mr Khattab said the CTD had launched probe after obtaining evidences.

Motive

The Rangers director general said the motive of the terrorists was to undermine Pakistan’s economic activities as PSX was its symbol. He said they wanted to attack country’s prosperity by shattering the confidence of investors; sabotage city’s peace and give an impression to the world that Pakistan was “unsafe”. But their nefarious designs were foiled as economic activities were not only restored within half an hour of the ambush, but the PSX achieved 2,800 points more than the previous day, he pointed out.

Referring to his visit to the PSX after the incident, the DG said 1,000 employees of the stock exchange resumed their activities within half an hour.

In reply to a question, DG Bukhari said there was no terror incident in Karachi for over a year and a half. He said such attack was not possible without help of hostile foreign agency, specifically RAW, and its sleeper cells.

Karachi police chief Additional IGP Ghulam Nabi Memon said that LEAs had taken concerted efforts and unearthed terror networks and the latest incident reflected their frustrations.

Regarding the recent five attacks on the Rangers, DG Bukhari said space for terror and criminal networks had shrunk due to combined efforts of law enforcement agencies. He said the hostile intelligence agency had allegedly developed a “nexus” of MQM-London with sub-nationalist groups and BLA to sabotage country’s peace and attacks on the paramilitary force on June 10 and June 19 could be outcome of that nexus. “We have launched an action and space for terror and criminal groups will shrink further,” he vowed.

The officer believed that Monday’s attack on PSX had resemblance to the 2018 attack on Chinese consulate in Karachi. He said it was easy to call it a “failure” of intelligence agencies, but as a matter of fact it was the success of the security agencies that there was no terror incident during the past one and a half years and the good response in place foiled their latest attempt as well. If there were any gaps, the same would be addressed, he assured.

The Karachi police chief said after the attack on the Chinese consulate on Nov 23, 2018, many terror attempts were foiled with the help of intelligence agencies. DIG Memon pointed out that intelligence agencies tended to provide information about threats and they had also informed about the attack on PSX where security was enhanced that ensured better response.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2020