Suspected militants, under trial in Karachi’s city courts, managed to flee from custody following a brazen and dramatic assault by armed men at the court premises on Saturday. While one policeman perished in the assault, which included the use of hand grenades, one of the four fleeing suspects was also killed in the ensuing crossfire between the assailants and police.
“At least four armed men hurled hand grenades before opening indiscriminate fire when four suspected militants were waiting for a prison van after a court hearing,” Capital City Police Officer Waseem Ahmed told journalists. He added that the escaped militants – Murad Shah, Murtaza, Wazir and Shukaib – were associated with the outlawed militant organisation Jundullah.
Jundallah is accused of carrying out a number of terrorist attacks in the country including a recent attack on an Ashura procession earlier this year in Karachi.
“Two men walked out of a mosque located on the city courts premises and started indiscriminate fire. They also hurled two hand grenades at the police,” said Muhammad Anees, a litigant present in the court at the time of the attack.
“A couple of assailants also scaled the boundary wall of the court and started firing randomly,” Anees told The Express Tribune. However, the exact number of attackers wasn’t known.
The sole policeman escorting the suspected militants challenged the attackers and traded fire with them. However, he was killed in the gun battle.
“The attackers fled while firing indiscriminately,” Zulqarnain, a juice vendor outside the city courts, told The Express Tribune. People ran helter-skelter as the attackers opened fire at random. Three passers-by were wounded in the firing.
“The attackers escaped in two groups,” DIG South Iqbal Mehmood said. One group escaped towards Napier Road, while the other fled to Jodia Bazaar. A police mobile van parked outside the court chased them and engaged them near Nawab Bakery in the precincts of Risala police station, he added.
“One of the attackers, Murad Shah, was killed when police fired at the hand grenade he was holding, causing it to detonate,” DIG Mehmood said. Shah’s two accomplices were also wounded in the explosion. However, they managed to flee the scene. Police said that the escaped militants were involved in the Ashura attack. However, they were earlier bailed out by a court in this matter, and were rearrested in a car hijacking case. Police had produced them in the court on Saturday to seek their remand.
DIG Mehmood said the police have sealed all entry and exit points of the city and mounted a manhunt for the militants.
“The attack took place while people were coming out of the mosque after saying Zuhr prayers,” DIG Mehmood said, adding that the attackers managed to flee using bystanders as shields.
He said that they would also initiate an inquiry against jail officials who did not inform them about the sensitive nature of the case so that additional security could have been put in place. Sources told The Express Tribune that the Jundullah militants were escorted to the court by two policemen and only one of them was armed.
The Special Investigative Unit (SIU) of the city police said they believed the attackers have taken shelter somewhere near the Mawach Goth area. “We have sent special teams to the area,” an unnamed official of the SIU said. “The attackers and their accomplices will be arrested soon,” he added.
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