Four heavily armed militants, believed to be from a banned Baloch terror group, on Monday made a brazen attempt to take over the Pakistan Stock Exchange building here, killing four security guards and a police officer before being shot dead by security forces.
The militants, who arrived in a car, opened indiscriminate fire and lobbed grenades at the main gate of the multi-storey building situated in the city’s high-security commercial hub.
Armed with automatic machine guns, grenades and explosives, they tried to enter the compound leading to the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) building through a parking lot but security forces foiled their attack within the compound itself, deputy superintendent of police (south) Jamil Ahmed said.
“The militants lobbed hand grenades and opened fire initially at the compound entrance to force themselves into the compound but one of them was killed immediately and that pushed them back,” he said.
Director general Rangers Sindh Major-General Omer Ahmed Bokhari, addressing a news conference in Karachi, said the attackers intended to not only enter the building but also carry out violence and hold people hostage.
“Every terrorist was armed with weapons that included AK-47s, hand grenades, rocket launchers. They were also carrying food and water,” he said.
He continued, “The PSX is an important symbol of economic activity, hence the objective of these militants was to increase casualties here and hold hostages.”
“It was an attempt to send a message to the world that Pakistan is not safe. They wanted to damage Pakistan’s economic activity and harm investors' confidence,” DG Rangers said.
The police and Rangers’ officials killed all four terrorists near the entrance gates, he said.
Four security guards, a police sub-inspector and two civilians were killed in the heavy exchange of fire at the PSX compound on Karachi’s I.I. Chundrigar Road, also known as Pakistan’s Wall Street, the police said.
The Majeed Brigade, which is linked to the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), claimed responsibility for the attack. The group is banned in Pakistan, the UK and the US.
The BLA has carried out several terrorist attacks in the past, including a suicide attack in August 2018 that targeted Chinese engineers in Balochistan, a November 2018 attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, and a May 2019 attack at the Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar, Balochistan.
A senior official of the Counter-Terrorism Department said that one of the militants was identified as Salman, who hails from Balochistan.
PSX managing director Farrukh Khan said that the “number of people in the compound was lower than normal today as many people are still staying home due to the Covid-19”. He said trading continued without interruption.
Sindh’s inspector-general of police Mushtaq Mahar said that the bodies of the attackers has been sent for forensic examination.
“None of them managed to even get close to the main building. All four were killed at the entrance of the compound which leads to the PSX,” he said.
Sindh Police surgeon Dr Qarar Ahmed Abbasi confirmed that seven bodies and seven injured policemen were brought brought to Karachi’s Civil Hospital.
The firing by militants caused panic among the people in the building.
Some of the traders told TV news channels that soon after the firing started, they huddled together in their offices and cabins as they were told to remain indoors.
“We were scared about what would happen if these terrorists managed to enter the building…,” a trader said.
The building and surrounding areas have been sealed and people were evacuated from the back door.
According to some media reports, the attackers were reportedly wearing clothes usually worn by police officials when they are off-duty.
President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the “terrorist attack” and said that the country is determined to root out terrorism from its soil.
Alvi, in a statement, said that terrorists will never succeed in their nefarious designs.
Khan condemned the attack and said that the entire nation is proud of the valiant personnel of the security agencies.
Sindh chief minister Murad Ali Shah condemned the attack and said that it was “akin to an attack on national security and economy”. “Anti-state elements want to take advantage of the virus situation,” he said.