RAWALPINDI, Feb 26: Ten people were shot dead and 16 others critically injured in a sectarian-related terrorism here on Tuesday, hospital and police sources told Dawn.
The hospital authorities feared that the death toll may rise as the condition of around four injured was serious.
The injured and the dead were taken to the Holy Family Hospital and later some of them were removed to the Rawalpindi General Hospital.
The dead have been identified as Hayat, Mohammad Yunus, Liaquat Ali, Abdur Raheem, Gulzar Husain, Ghulam Haider, Khawaja Muneer Ali, Kashif, Kamran and Abdul Ali.
The injured are: Sultan Hussain, Sadiq Raza, Ahsan Naqvi, Khawaja Zaheer, Romal, Hani Khan, Zaki Haider, Ansar, Akhund Agha, Malik Jawad, Anjum, Anjum Abbas, Anwar Ali, Imran, Abdul Aleem and Iftikhar.
According to the eyewitnesses, three terrorists on a motorcycle came outside Shah-i-Najaf mosque, in Khayaban-i-Sir Syed, sector 4, when the Maghrib prayers were being offered. Two of the assailants walked into the mosque and locked the door from inside and the third one stood outside.
“The two men, wearing shalwar kameez, apparently in their 20s, first started hurling abuses and then sprayed bullets on the Namazis,” Shabir Zaki one of the injured told Dawn. Another eyewitness said one of the attackers fired shots at the worshippers while the other loaded the empty gun and continued targeting.
One of the injured, describing from the hospital bed the appearance of the assailants, said they were fair coloured and well-built and approximately five-and-a-half feet high. They were having well-trimmed beards, he added.
As soon as the shooting started, the Namazis, who were around 40 in number, fell on the ground and their screams and groaning could be heard loudly, an eyewitness said.
“It was a horrible scene, bodies were lying in a pool of blood as I rushed to switch on the public address system of the mosque to seek the help of the neighbours,” Mr Zaki, in charge of the mosque said.
The private guard of the mosque, who was supposed to be on duty, was himself saying prayers and was killed in the attack.
Moving scenes were witnessed in the hospital as the heirs came to identify the bodies of the victims.
The charged heirs of the deceased and injured who had gathered in a large number outside the emergency ward of the HFH, chanted slogans against the government and accused the police and district administration of not making adequate preventive measures that led to the massacre.
They said the administration had refused to allow them to construct a boundary wall around the mosque, which could have prevented the incident.
Police guards had been removed from the city’s worship places few days back.
The newly-appointed Rawalpindi Senior Superintendent of Police, Morawat Shah, said it was almost impossible to depute police guards at each and every mosque and Imambargah. “We cannot term it police negligence,” the SSP said.
Rawalpindi Range Deputy Inspector-General of Police Fareed Nawaz said the killing appeared to be sectarian motivated, and it was most probable that the killers had fled to neighbouring Islamabad. “They might have crossed over to Islamabad. We have alerted the federal capital administration in this connection and have asked them to keep an eye on suspicious persons,” the DIG further said.
After a session with the commander of the 111 brigade, Brig Shafquat Ahmed, the DIG said they had decided to conduct raids at the places of known sectarian activists to track down the killers.
But Brig Shafquat, who had been monitoring police performance, refused to comment on the gory incident.
He ruled out the possibility of calling in troops for maintaining law and order, and said their role would only be limited to the investigation side of the tragedy.
The weapon used in the attack has been identified by the police as Kalashnikov. However, no arrest had been made by the police till the filing of this report.
It was the first major attack of this kind since President Pervez Musharraf announced a crackdown on extremist and sectarian groups last month.
The IG of Punjab Police, announced Rs500,000 reward for giving information about the assailants of the incident.
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