KARACHI: In crime-infested Karachi, drive-by assassinations have become normality. The attackers come on motorcycles, use 9mm pistols, fire a volley of bullets and speed away. But a new trend has caught police off guard.
In three recent ‘sectarian’ attacks, the assailants used suppressor-fitted handguns to silence their six victims, investigators believe.
Commonly known as silencers, suppressors are hollow cylindrical devices attached to the barrel of a firearm to reduce the noise generated by firing the weapon. Contrary to popular belief, suppressors do not completely eliminate the sound of gunfire but reduce the noise to an unrecognisable level. In most countries, especially in Asia and in Europe, the use of suppressors by civilians is banned.
On October 15, at least two armed men on a motorcycle killed four activists of the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat, formerly the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, on Jhangvi Road in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. Four days later, armed men shot and killed a Dawoodi Bohra community Ali Akbar while he was en route a wedding reception with his wife. On October 31, Shabbir Saifuddin of the Bohra community was shot dead in North Nazimabad.
Police have not found any evidence to link the attacks to personal enmities, business disputes, threats or resisting a robbery. The men ran their own businesses and were killed this October. In all three cases, two armed attackers on a motorcycle were said to be responsible.
Witnesses in the attacks on the Bohra community’s men have told the police that they did not hear the sound of bullets being fired. “We suspected the use of a silencer in the Bohra community man’s target killing, but we couldn’t be sure,” said North Nazimabad DSP Abdul Rasheed Khan. “Our doubts were confirmed when the second similar case happened.”
Inspector Saleemullah Qureshi from the Mobina Town police confirmed that pistols fitted with silencers were used to kill the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat men also.
The use of the suppressor-fitted pistols is not common in Karachi, CID SSP Fayyaz Khan told The Express Tribune. A few men have, however, been arrested with these weapons and they have also been recovered from intercity buses while they were being smuggled to Karachi.
“The interesting thing is that the weapon like this has only been recovered from sectarian target killers. Getting these pistols is difficult and they can only be acquired by someone who is influential. This is why they’re not that common.”
He said the initial investigation reveals that the same group – probably a sectarian group – was behind the attacks on the six men.
Dozens of licensed weapons stores are in Karachi, and are mostly located at Lucky Star in Saddar. None of them, however, are allowed to sell and purchase silencers. One of the arms dealers in Saddar told The Express Tribune that the sale and purchase of suppressors was banned. “We want to run our business not shut it by selling silencers,” said a shopkeeper surprised by the question. “If someone has his pistol fitted with a silencer, then this is not from here. It is either directly from the tribal areas or was imported, and not everyone can do this.”
Saddar ASP Ali Asif said that he had never received any complaint about the trade of silencers at any arms shop. “This is a serious crime that is punishable under the Anti-Terrorism Act.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2012.