'Kill them all': Gunman shouted before killing 45 on board Karachi bus

  • Agencies, Karachi
  • Updated: May 14, 2015 07:40 IST

Gunmen on motorcycles boarded a bus and opened fire on commuters in Pakistan's volatile southern city of Karachi on Wednesday, killing at least 43, officials said, in the latest attack directed against religious minorities this year.

The pink bus was pockmarked with bullet holes and blood saturated the seats and dripped out of the doors on to the concrete.

"As the gunmen climbed on to the bus, one of them shouted, 'Kill them all!' Then they started indiscriminately firing at everyone they saw," a wounded woman told a television channel by phone.

Police superintendent Najib Khan said there were six gunmen and that all the passengers were Ismailis, a minority Shi'ite Muslim sect. Pakistan is mostly Sunni.

Qadir Baluch, a security guard at a nearby building, said he heard the gunshots and saw at least one of the militants wearing a police uniform.

The attack riddled the bus with bullet holes, but its wounded driver still could drive it to a nearby hospital, said Mohammad Imran, a guard there.

Imran said when he got on the bus later, he saw blood still seeping across its seats and floor. Blood stained Imran's own hands and uniform. "I hardly saw any survivor," he said.

Militant group Jundullah, which has attacked Muslim minorities before, claimed responsibility. The group has links with the Pakistani Taliban and pledged allegiance to Islamic State in November.

"These killed people were Ismaili and we consider them kafir (non-Muslim). We had four attackers. In the coming days we will attack Ismailis, Shi'ites and Christians," spokesperson Ahmed Marwat said.

Later in the day, the Islamic State group said in a statement posted on jihadist Twitter accounts, "Thanks be to Allah, 43 apostates were killed and around 30 were wounded in an attack carried out by Islamic State soldiers on a bus transporting Shiite Ismaili infidels in the city of Karachi."

It was the first official claim of responsibility by the IS leadership of an attack in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

IS, which has seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq, announced in January the creation of a branch in what it called "Khorasan province", encompassing Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of surrounding countries.

Outside the hospital where the wounded were taken, and where the bus was parked, scores of grim-faced young men formed a human chain to block everyone but families and doctors.

A sobbing middle-aged man said: "I have come to collect the body of my young son. He was a student preparing for his first year exams at college."

Emails and Facebook posts on Ismaili pages encouraged the community not respond or say anything that might further endanger them.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he was saddened by the attack.

"This is a very patriotic and peaceful people who have always worked for the wellbeing of Pakistan," he said. "This is an attempt to spread divisions in the country."

Militant threats

Uzma Alkarim, a member of the Ismaili community, said the bus took commuters to work every day. The Ismailis had faced threats before, she said.

"Around six months ago, our community elders had alerted us to be careful because of security threats but things had calmed down recently," she said.

English leaflets left in the bus were headlined "Advent of the Islamic State!" and used a derogatory Arabic word for Shi'ites, blaming them for "barbaric atrocities ... in the Levant, Iraq and Yemen".

The leaflets also blamed Shi'ites for a deadly sectarian attack in Rawalpindi, next to the capital Islamabad, and raged against extrajudicial killings by police.

In January, 60 people were killed when Jundullah bombed a Shi'ite mosque in the southern province of Sindh. The Taliban bombed another Shi'ite mosque in the northwest city of Peshawar weeks later.

Both the Taliban and Jundullah claimed the bombing of Wagah border crossing last year, which killed 57 people. Jundullah also claimed a church bombing that killed more than 80 people in Peshawar in 2013.

Many religious minorities blame the government for not doing enough to protect them. Police are underpaid, poorly equipped and poorly trained.

Karachi, a sprawling city of roughly 20 million, has long had a reputation for high crime rates as well as ethnic, political and sectarian violence.

But the violence has significantly fallen since 2013 after police and paramilitary rangers launched a crackdown that rights activists say has led to extra-judicial killings of suspected criminals and militants.

(With Reuters, AFP and AP inputs)

Read: Gunmen open fire on bus in Karachi, 'ISIS leaflet' found at scene

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