The country’s tenuous security situation continued to unravel on Monday with the daylight assassination of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi, the second attack on the mission since the killing of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
The Saudi diplomat, also a security officer of the Saudi consulate in Karachi, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting within the limits of the Darakshan police station in Defence Phase VI. The diplomat, identified as Hassan M al Kahtani, was shot by at least four gunmen riding two motorcycles, who intercepted his vehicle after he left his residence near Khayaban-e-Shahbaz around 9 am, according to the police.
“They intercepted the victim’s car and sprayed it with the bullets,” SP Tariq Dharejo told The Express Tribune. “We have found at least six empty shells from the crime scene and the bullets also hit the victim’s car.”
The diplomat was driving the vehicle, bearing registration number CC-2264, himself at the time of the attack.
“We condemn this attack. No one who carries out this kind of attack can be a Muslim,” Saudi Ambassador Abdul Aziz al-Ghadeer, told Reuters. Four bullets were fired and one struck the diplomat in the head, said senior Karachi police official Iqbal Mehmood.
The Saudi state news agency described his killing as a “criminal attack”. It said Saudi officials would investigate the shooting alongside the Pakistani authorities.
Saudi Arabia will also increase security for its diplomats in countries considered as danger zones, starting in Pakistan after the attack in Karachi, a foreign ministry official said.
“We will start with Pakistan, but if security is needed in other countries, we won’t hesitate,” said the official, who chose to remain anonymous. He declined to specify which countries might see heightened security measures.
The shooting, which a Saudi embassy official said occurred about 60 metres from the consulate, came days after unidentified attackers threw two hand grenades at the consulate in Pakistan’s commercial hub. No one was hurt in that attack.
The New York Times quoted a Pakistani security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, saying that the Saudi diplomat was an intelligence official. “He was looking into Saudi dissidents who have found refuge in the city and this is most probably why he was targeted,” the official said.
Police officials claim that the victim had been dead long before the police and rescuers reached the crime site. The victim’s body was taken to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and later shifted to the Edhi morgue, Sohrab Goth after completing medico-legal formalities. Later in the evening, it was handed over to the Saudi Consulate officials under the supervision of Abdul Sattar Edhi.
Police Surgeon Sindh Dr Hamid Padhiar told The Express Tribune that the victim was shot three times, adding that the cause of death was shock and hemorrhage due to the firearm injuries. JPMC medico-legal officer (MLO) Tayyab Umrani also confirmed to The Express Tribune that the victim had been shot three times, adding that he was shot from a close range and all bullets crossed the head.
Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Karachi Saud Mirza told The Express Tribune that the investigation was in its initial stage and the identity of the group or its members could not be confirmed as yet.
He said that a 9mm pistol had been used by the assailants but the investigators were not sure how many of the armed men actually fired at the diplomat, adding that the investigators were also being assisted by a forensic team.
Meanwhile, the police have registered FIR No 162/11 under section 302/34 against four unidentified persons. SHO Mohammad Tasawwur told The Express Tribune that the police have registered the case on the complaint of Faisal Mohammad, an employee of the Saudi Consulate.
Faisal told The Express Tribune that the police was obtaining CCTV footages from nearby banks, restaurants and buildings to help identify and find the culprits.
Additional input from agencies
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2011.