KARACHI, May 16: A Saudi diplomat was gunned down in the DHA area of the city on Monday morning, days after two grenades had been lobbed at the Saudi Consulate building.
The attack on the consulate official took place in the relatively peaceful neighbourhood of Khayaban-i-Shahbaz, not far from the consulate.
“CCTV footage shows that four men on two motorcycles intercepted Hassan Al Qahtani’s car and opened fire,” Deputy Inspector General of Police (Karachi South) Iqbal Mehmood told Dawn. The official was driving to work and his car carried a diplomatic number plate.
Shots were fired from both sides of the car and Mr Qahtani was hit by two bullets, one in the head which caused his death, the DIG said.
Police found six spent bullet casings of a 9mm pistol at the place and took the diplomat’s body to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for post-mortem.
The body was later handed over to Saudi officials who made arrangements to fly it to Saudi Arabia.
An identity card found in the car described Qahtani as a ‘Consulate Agent’.
Saudi Ambassador Abdul Aziz Al Ghadeer condemned the attack. “No-one who carries out this kind of attack can be a Muslim,” he said while talking to the Reuters news agency.
A police officer said a ‘Bahrain connection’ could not be ruled out as a possible motive for the two attacks, but it was also being investigated whether these were in revenge for the killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
The New York Times, quoting a Pakistani security official, said Qahtani was working on Saudi dissidents who had found refuge in the city and this most probably was the reason behind his killing. Security at all foreign missions in the city was enhanced after the incident.
Meanwhile, the Binnoria University International issued a statement condemning the killing and grenade attack and demanding immediate arrest of the attackers.
Agencies add: Sindh home ministry official Sharfuddin Memon said a six-member police and intelligence team would investigate the killing and the attack on the Saudi mission.
A security official said: “Apart from a possible reaction by militants to Osama’s killing, we also suspect a sectarian link.”
Saudi Arabia called on Pakistan to tighten security measures around diplomatic missions, a foreign ministry official was quoted as saying by state media.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar spoke to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal to express “shock and anger” over the killing and pledged the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
“The government of Pakistan will take all necessary measures to ensure the security and protection of diplomats in Pakistan,” the foreign ministry said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing.
“Until America stops chasing Al Qaeda and stops drone strikes we will keep carrying out such attacks,” a spokesman for the group said by telephone.