Karachi, Sept. 25 (Reuters): Two gunmen burst into the offices of a Christian charity in the Pakistani city of Karachi today and tied up and gagged seven Christians before shooting them at point blank range, police said.
The attack was the latest in a series of bloody assaults on Christian or Western targets since Pakistan’s military government sided with the US-led war on terror last year.
Six men died instantly, and doctors said a seventh died shortly afterwards at Karachi’s main hospital. Police said the seven, all Pakistanis, were shot through the head with a pistol.
Doctors said an eighth man faced permanent paralysis of his left side from a head wound and needed an operation, while a ninth was under sedation after being beaten up in the attack.
The gunmen fled the scene and were being hunted.
The attack took place at the city centre offices of the Idare-e Amn-O-Insaf, or the Organisation for Peace and Justice.
“The gunmen first roped all the people inside the room, they also taped their mouths,” a police officer told Reuters. “After, they fired straight at their heads.”
“The dead bodies were found lying on chairs,” said provincial police chief Syed Kamal Shah. “It appeared that they were forced to sit there. Their hands were tied and their mouths were also taped.”
“We found eight empty bullet shells of a TT pistol which means that they were shot point blank,” he said.
“Apparently it’s an act of terror,” Shah added. “But we are investigating it with an open mind and don't rule out a possible link with recent attacks on minorities and foreign nationals.”
The attack came a day after two gunmen attacked the Swaminarayan temple in Gujarat and killed at least 29 people. Indian deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani has implicitly blamed Pakistan for that attack.
Interior minister Moinuddin Haider told state-run Pakistan Television authorities would track down those responsible.
“It’s a very sad incident,” he said. “We condemn it and whosoever has done it, it is matter of time, we will unmask them. But that certainly is not helping Pakistan.” Leaders of the country’s tiny Christian community, however, said the government was not doing enough to protect them.
“It seems that nobody except Muslims will live in Pakistan,” Salim Khursheed Khokhar, a local leader of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance told Reuters by telephone.
“Fundamentalism is taking root in Pakistan, and Christians’ places of worships and welfare institutes are being targetted one after the other.”
The charity has its offices, which are unmarked, on the third floor of Rimpa Plaza, a 12-storey block in downtown Karachi. A doctor in the next-door office said he had seen two gunmen. “They were wearing shirts and trousers and were clean shaven,” he said.
As a large crowd gathered around the office, the bodies were brought out wrapped in white sheets. Blood dripped off the stretchers carrying the dead men, and there were large blood stains around their heads.
At the hospital female relatives of one victim, Edwin Foster, wailed and beat themselves in grief.
“We were already shattered,” said his mother, Salima. “His father died just a few months back. And now my son. We are ruined, we are ruined.”