KARACHI, April 12: Three activists of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) were gunned down in Mehmoodabad on Tuesday while they were taking a rest during their 'assistance' to government staff engaged in a house count under the recently launched census, officials and party sources said. The second incident of political activists having been killed for a second day running prompted fresh fears among Karachiites, but the killing scourge remained beyond the control of political and security administrations of the province.

There was also no word from any of the key members of the Sindh cabinet about government efforts to halt nonstop targeted killings.

In the first half of the day, four gunmen riding two motorbikes pulled up at a street in Mehmoodabad No 2 to target the three young men associated with the MQM, and rode away in a flash after executing the job.

“The incident was witnessed near a mosque, Noor Masjid, in Mehmoodabad No 2,” said Inspector Ahsan Zulfiqar, the SHO of the Mehmoodabad police station. “Witnesses saw two of the four men get off the two motorcycles and fire at the three men engaged in chatting. They fired multiple shots at the victims and sped away.”

Syed Asif Ali, in his late 30s, 45-year-old Muneer Ahmed and 40-year-old Muhammad Naeem were critically wounded in the shooting. They died one after another during treatment in the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.

Earlier they were believed to be enumerators engaged in a house count, but the police later found that the victims were actually 'assisting' the census staff and were associated with the MQM.

“There was a house count going on in the area and they were with the staff engaged in the exercise,” said SSP Amir Farooqi of Jamshed Town. “Such an association led to the confusion but later it became clear that they were only assisting the enumerators and one of them was resident of the same locality where the incident took place.”

He said the victims were hit mostly in the head, chest and face while the attackers took a few seconds to meet their target and accelerated away from the scene.

“We found more than 30 casings of spent bullets of 9mm pistol at the crime scene. The bodies have been handed over to the families after medico-legal formalities,” added SSP Farooqi.

Fear gripped the densely populated neighbourhood and businesses were shut down amid frequent crackle of gunfire. Transport on the roads passing through the locality gradually disappeared.

The killing of the activists angered MQM leaders, but they urged party workers to stay calm. They demanded that the government protect activists' lives.

“The coordination committee has demanded that Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan and Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah take notice of the incident and ensure the arrest of killers and their patrons,” said an MQM statement.

The statement also carried a message from MQM chief Altaf Hussain, condoling with the victims' families and condemning the killings.

“Syed Asif Ali was a former sector member of the party and was a resident of the Mehmoodabad area,” said the statement. “Muneer Ahmed had retired as a deputy superintendent of the Sindh government's land and revenue department only two months ago. Muhammad Naeem was a resident of the Surjani Town area and employed with the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board as a fitter.”

Earlier, in the small hours of the day, a tea boy was killed in an armed attack on a roadside restaurant in Gulistan-i-Jauhar. Area police said the armed men on two motorbikes fired at the roadside restaurant near Rabia City that left two youngsters badly wounded.

“One of the wounded, 19-year-old Shamsul Haq, died during treatment. The other, Hazrat Ali, was hit in the abdomen but was declared stable after he underwent a surgery,” said an official at the Sharea Faisal police station.

Though the police remained clueless about the motive and people behind the shooting, the Awami National Party claimed the attack was ethnically motivated.

“The attack was part of the series of attacks targeting people of a particular background and ethnicity. The trend is a serious threat to city peace. And we demand immediate and effective measures by the authorities to curb targeted killings,” said an ANP spokesman.