In two brazen attacks, armed terrorists on Wednesday gunned down seven policemen including three deployed for security of a polio vaccination team in Karachi’s suburban Orangi Town neighbourhood.
The first attack took place on the Muhafiz Force’s mobile van, which was parked, according to an eyewitness, outside an eatery at Orangi Town’s Bangla Bazaar. The eyewitness said two cops were standing outside the van while two were sitting on its front seats, when armed motorcyclists targeted them.
“The assailants first hit and killed the cops standing outside the van and later targeted those inside the van. Before fleeing, they even took away a sub machinegun of one of the policemen. However, they later threw it down on the road,” he said.
Minutes after the first attack, a similar attack was carried out on the three policemen guarding anti-polio vaccinators at a place located just a few hundred metres away from the scene of the first attack.
According to a police official, Sarfaraz Alyana, a group of more than half a dozen armed assailants were behind the attacks. However, he said, it was yet to be ascertained as to what exactly was their target – the cops or the polio teams.
“After attacking the police mobile, they shot dead three policemen, who were guarding the anti-polio workers. Apparently the police were their target,” he said, adding that the police mobile had no links with the duty of the polio teams.
Following the attack, a heavy contingent of police and paramilitary Rangers reached the site and threw a cordon around the area. Bodies of the cops were taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital for autopsy.
The slain policemen were identified as Rustam Khan, Mohammad Ismail, Gul Khan, Wazir, Ghulam Rasool, Ghazi Khan and Daimud Din. Officials said the policemen guarding the polio team were from Shahdadkot police training centre and were called to perform security duty for the polio workers.
According to an official from the hospital’s medico-legal section, all the policemen were shot in their heads and they died on the spot. None of the policemen was wearing bullet-proof jackets.
The police later recovered at least nine empty shells of 9mm pistols. They sent them to the forensic division for ballistics cross matching, whose report showed that one of the weapons had been used in 21 acts of terrorism and crime during 2014 and 2015.
The CCTV camera installed at a police mobile van was also not functioning – a fact which deprived the police investigators of important clues. However, the police have found some CCTV footages from nearby shops and they have claimed that a proscribed organisation is involved in the assault.
Later Rangers and police launched a search operation in the surrounding areas and apprehended nearly half of a dozen suspects, who were later shifted to undisclosed location for interrogation. Security in the city, particularly in the district west, was also enhanced.
Rangers Director General (DG) Major General Bilal Akbar, Sindh Inspector General Police (IGP) Allah Dino Khowaja and other senior officials visited the crime scene.
“All polio workers in the city will be provided protection while the attackers will be caught soon. Sacrifices of the martyred police personnel will not go in vain,” said Rangers DG, while talking to the media after visiting the crime scene. “Rangers and police will jointly investigate the attack,” he said.
The IGP Khowaja announced a reward of Rs0.5 million for anyone who provides information about the attackers. He also announced Rs2 million for each of the bereaved families as compensation. He also promised that two members of each grieving family would be given government jobs. “This was the attack on police but the militants could not shake the morale of the law enforcers,” he said.
Meanwhile, a splinter group of the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), TTP Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. “We have carried out both attacks on the polio teams in Karachi,” the TTP-JA spokesperson Ehsaullah Ehsan said in a phone call to the media. “The attacks are part of the group’s activities across Pakistan,” he said.
Since 2012, nearly a dozen attacks have occurred on the polio teams and the policemen guarding them in Karachi. These attacks have so far claimed lives of over half a dozen polio-workers, nine cops and a doctor.
Polio worker attacked in Mohmand
Meanwhile, a polio worker was also targeted through an improvised explosive device (IED) in Dawezai area of Mohmand Agency. According to political administration, Khalid Khan – a polio worker – narrowly escaped when an IED planted on his way in Dawezai exploded on Wednesday afternoon.
MQM condemns attack
Condemning the Orangi incident, the MQM Rabita Commiteee said ‘jet black’ terrorists were roaming around freely while its innocent workers were being arrested.
In a press statement, the party said men and women engaged in polio campaigns have been targeted in the past but their killers have not been apprehended. “[However,] thousands of MQM workers have been arrested [since start of Karachi operation in September 2013],” said the statement.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2016.