Heavily armed gunmen on Saturday brazenly stormed a court in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi and freed four members of the banned Baloch group Jundullah after opening gunfire in which at least two people were killed.
Three attackers entered the city court complex, lobbing grenades and firing from their automatic weapons in which a constable was killed, Deputy Inspector General Iqbal Mehmood told reporters.
The incident which happened at 3:15 pm local time triggered panic in the area as shopkeepers downed the shutters and ran for their lives.
"The men emerged from the mosque inside the city court premises and attacked the police party who were escorting a the four activists of the banned outfit. They resorted to indiscriminate firing and also threw three hand grenades causing explosions as they escaped from the court," an eye witness said.
Later, a body of one of the suspected attackers was found near the court complex. His hands were blown off and the torso mutilated, witnesses said.
Initially, TV channels had said that 10 to 12 armed men were involved in the attack but later police clarified that the storming was carried out by three people.
After freeing the four Jundullah members who had been brought to the complex to be produced in court, the attackers fled to the nearby Jodia Bazar, where they exchanged fire with police.
Officials at the Civil Hospital said they had received four wounded persons. Doctors described the condition of two of them as critical.
Police surrounded Jodia Bazar, a congested market with numerous narrow lanes, and launched a search for the attackers.
The four Jundullah members – Murtaza, Shakeeb Farooqi, Wazeer Muhammad and Murad Shah – were arrested on suspicion of involvement in bomb attacks on Shia processions in Karachi in December last year.
Jundullah is claimed to be a group active in parts of Baloch dominated areas of Iran, bordering Pakistan.
Karachi has been by and large spared of the violence by Taliban militants that has rocked other Pakistani cities over the past few years.