Monday, June 29, 2020
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Security forces foil terrorist bid to take over Pakistan Stock Exchange in gun and grenade attack

All four attackers killed before they could get inside building; three security personnel lay down their lives defending compound

KARACHI: Police said all four 'terrorists' who attacked the busy Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) around 10am on Monday morning had been killed by security personnel, with two security guards and a police sub-inspector martyred while repelling the attempt to storm the busiest building on Karachi's I.I. Chundrigar Road, also known as Pakistan's Wall Street. 

Armed militants had arrived at the PSX compound in a sedan and attempted to enter it from the parking ground side, according to initial reports and eyewitness statements. They were seen shouldering backpacks and carrying automatic weaponry in an amateur video captured by an eyewitness. The equipment, arms and ammunition recovered from them indicated that they had come prepared for a long siege.

Security personnel gather at the main entrance of the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in Karachi on June 29, 2020. Gunmen attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi on June 29, with four of the assailants killed, police said. Photo: AFP

After failing to enter the compound, the militants launched a gun and grenade attack and attempted to storm the building while opening indiscriminate fire. They were engaged by security personnel posted and failed to make headway amidst heavy exchange of fire. 

Initial reports indicate that all four of the militants were killed near the entrance gates, before they could enter the building. Two security guards and a police sub-inspector laid down their lives foiling the attack. 

The entire locality was later cordoned off by security forces and a search and clear operation was launched. The PSX was evacuated and the car that the militants arrived in was taken into custody. 

Members of Police Crime Scene Unit investigate around a car used by alleged gunmen at the main entrance of the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in Karachi on June 29, 2020. Photo: AFP

SP City Muqadas said seven people wounded in the attack had been shifted to Civil Hospital Karachi. He added, apart from those martyred, a policeman injured in the incident was being treated at the hospital.

Director Pakistan Stock Exchange and an eyewitness to the attack, Abid Ali Habib, said that the militants had stormed the Railway Ground parking area and fired outside the ground of the PSX. Habib said that the firing by militants had caused panic among the people in the building.

Militants came with aim to hold people hostage: DG Rangers Sindh

Major-General Omer Ahmed Bokhari, addressing a press conference in Karachi, said the four militants that came to the PSX, had 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.

Speaking about the entire operation, Maj Gen Bokhari said the four attackers were killed within eight minutes. He said that they carried out the attack at 10:02am and were gunned down at 10:10am.

“It was a combined effort with rangers, police and PSX security guards,” he said adding that the entire building was cleared within 25 minutes so that the routine activity of the Pakistan Stock Exchange was not affected.

Clearing the air about who was responsible for the attack, the DG said they were investigating and trying to identify the 'gaps'. “We will find out what gaps were present due to which these militants came through and investigate them,” he added.

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 noted.

He added, "I can guarantee you that this terrorist attack could not have taken place without a 'hostile terrorist agency' and number one on the list is RAW.”

Authorities to probe into attack, study gaps: DG Rangers Sindh

The Maj-Gen further said the authorities will probe the attack thoroughly.

“Pakistan's law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in the past few years have taken action against criminal gangs and terrorist organisations, shrinking their space [to operate with impunity]. Hence, this has frustrated hostile agencies,” he said. “We are fully aware that hostile agencies are struggling to form a nexus of remnants of some terrorist organisations such as MQM-London and sub-nationalists.”

He added, “We are aware of who is doing what and forming which nexuses. You will see, we will reach to the depth of this and shrink their [militants] space further.”

Police officers survey a damaged car at the site of an attack at the Pakistan Stock Exchange entrance in Karachi June 29, 2020. — Reuters

Responding to question, DG Rangers Sindh said that it is easy to call everything an intelligence failure. “Karachi is a large city and it isn't as easy as four people sitting in a car and carrying out militant activities everywhere,” he said.

People should appreciate how these four terrorists had been eliminated within eight minutes, he said. "Our response was in place and they could not fulfill any of their objectives," he added.

He added that the PSX attack was similar to the attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi a year-and-a-half ago.

‘Will leave no stone unturned in taking effective action’

Moreover, the DG Rangers added that they will leave no stone unturned in taking action against anyone who would carry terrorist activities in the future.

“The linkages [of militants] with India are there for all to see. We are aware of it and we are aware of their [hostile agencies] frustration," he said.

The official continued, “We constantly evaluate a threat and update our response to it. Police, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have great coordination. Us sitting here and talking to you is proof of that.”

In my opinion, the DG Rangers said, hostile agencies wanted to send a message to the world that Pakistan is not a safe country. “They wanted to shatter the investors' confidence here. However, they failed at it. The stock exchange, instead of taking a turn for the worse, has registered an upward trend after it,” he said.

Separately, IG Police Kaleem Imam said that intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies don't work separately. "We do not work in silos," he said, adding that dfferent components of LEAs worked as a unit.

He also thanked IG Sindh Mushtaq Mehar for announcing a reward of Rs2 million for the police officers who bravely fought militants and performed their duties as expected of them.

“The injured police officers are healing and their morale is high. We will provide them with the best medical care,” he said, adding that the police officer who was martyred in the attack would be buried with proper funeral rights and given the status of a shaheed.

PSX to issue detailed report

Earlier, the Pakistan Stock exchange in a statement said reinforcements were in  are in place.

"There was an attack on the PSX compound earlier today. The situation is still unfolding and management, with the help of security forces, is managing the security and controlling the situation," said the PSX in a tweet.

The PSX shared that they will issue a more detailed statement once the "details are known".

"For now firing has stopped and reinforcement are in place," said the PSX.

Meanwhile, Managing Director of PSX Farrukh Khan told Geo News that the incident was “very unfortunate” but thankfully the PSX’s security arrangements and planning done by them was “effective” in thwarting the attack.

Khan said that the PSX’s guards were successful in stopping the attackers from entering the building till police and rangers responded to the incident.

The MD PSX also shared that the staff at the building was less than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic as many people were working remotely.

“I cannot give an exact figure [on how many people were in the building] but the Stock exchange compound has two main areas. One is the PSX building and has its staff due to COVID-19 were working remotely as far as possible. Staff was there but it was less than normal,” said the MD. He added that on normal days 6,000 to 8,000 people entered the compound but it was very less these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Khan repeated that even despite the pandemic there were a lot of people inside the compound, adding that if the terrorists were not held back at the gate then the situation could have turned worse.

The MD also shared that one of the attackers came inside the compound for some steps but he was neutralised before he could come further by the PSX’s security team and security personnel.

Khan also shared that trading was not affected by the attack and continued even during the attack and was still underway. He also clarified that the PSX had not received any kind of threat about an imminent attack.

PM Imran condemns incident, CM Shah seeks detailed report

Prime Minister Imran Khan has also condemned the attack at the Pakistan Stock Exchange and lauded the security agencies for bravely fighting the attackers and successfully thwarting their attack.

The PM also shared his condolences with the deceased and prayed for the successful recovery for the injured.

Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah has condemned the incident and asked for a detailed report of the incident.

Shah said that enemies of the country want to take advantage of the situation created by the pandemic and directed all law enforcement agencies to be more vigilant. The CM also lauded the police and rangers for the quick action.

On the other hand, Governer Sindh Imran Ismail, while the attack was ongoing, had tweeted that he had instructed the Inspector General of police and security agencies to catch the militants alive.

"We shall protect Sindh at all costs," the governor had tweeted while condemning the attack.