Baloch separatist attack Pakistan Stock Exchange, kill four before getting eliminated

The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), claimed responsibility for the attack in a tweet

Credit : Reuters/Akhtar Soomro

Armed gunmen on Monday launched an attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi. They killed four persons, including three guards and a policeman, while trying to take hostages. However, security forces eliminated the four assailants, said Pakistani security officials.

According to a South China Morning Post report, insurgents from Balochistan, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), claimed responsibility for the attack in a tweet, quoting senior counterterrorism officer Raja Umar Khattab. “They had come to carry out an attack inside the building and take hostages inside,” Sindh Rangers director general Omer Ahmed Bukhari told reporters. The insurgents were killed within eight minutes, he added.

Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon said the gunmen arrived in a car and lobbed grenades and opened fire indiscriminately. A BBC report quoting Memon said the insurgents could not enter the main building. Stock exchange officials also said militants did not enter the building.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Sharjil Kharal said three guards and a policeman died in the attack while seven people were injured.

According to a counterterrorism official, the attackers were carrying substantial ammunition. 

“We locked ourselves in our offices,” said Asad Javed, who was working at the stock exchange. The stock exchange building is located in a high-security zone housing head offices of several banks. Javed said he saw people running for safety following gunshots and an explosion.

Bukhari alleged that “hostile intelligence agencies” and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) were among primary suspects.

“But at the moment, we have to collect evidence to establish the supporters,” he said. Pakistani prime minister’s aide on national security matters Moeed Yusuf and foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi blamed hostile foreign elements for the assault. Pakistan usually blames India for aiding Baloch separatists.

The BLA described the act as a “self-sacrificing” attack conducted by Majeed brigade.

Islamist militants had for many years launched violent attacks in Pakistan. However, such attacks have become rare for some years now. Balochistan has rich deposits of minerals and gas, which the separatists accuse Pakistan of diverting to other provinces.

BLA had also claimed responsibility in 2018 for an attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi. China has been carrying out many Belt and Road projects in Balochistan. The Baloch separatists have been involved in insurgency operations demanding freedom from Pakistan and a major claim on resources found in the province.

The BBC report said BLA is among around 12 such groups in the province and had launched such attacks in the past. It had targeted a star hotel in Gwadar in Balochistan last year. The hotel is a part of a massive Chinese plan being implemented there. The militants have been opposing Chinese involvement calling it of no use to local people.

The BLA has been categorised as a terrorist group by Pakistan, the UK and the US. The Pakistani military has been ruthlessly trying to suppress the insurgents for over decades in Balochistan, which is inaccessible to journalists and human rights activists. Militants’ have sanctuaries in the thinly populated region. They also take refuge in south-eastern Afghanistan. Balochistan is among the country’s most impoverished region even after being rich in natural resources.