At least 44 members of a Shiite community were shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Wednesday, the deadliest attack in Pakistan’s financial hub of Karachi this year and among the worst against the religious minority.
Thirteen others were injured when gunmen on motorcycles stopped and boarded the bus carrying passengers of the Aga Khani Muslim community before opening fire, Rasheed Channa, spokesman for the province’s chief minister, said by phone. The benchmark stock index fell 0.3 percent as the attack renewed concerns about security.
“It is very worrying that a peaceful community was targeted in Karachi,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in televised comments. “This is an attempt to spread hatred across the country.”
Sharif said he will cut short a meeting in the capital to visit Karachi and the nation’s army chief Raheel Sharif, no relation to the prime minister, canceled a visit to Sri Lanka. Pakistan’s leaders are battling a backlash after launching an offensive against militants that gained speed in December when the Taliban killed 134 students in a Peshawar school.
The Pakistani Taliban and militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi may be behind Wednesday’s attack “since the Taliban have apparently claimed it,” Qaim Ali Shah, chief minister of Sindh province, of which Karachi’s the capital, told reporters.
‘Political or Sectarian’
At least 102 Shiites were killed in Pakistan last year, almost half of the 210 deaths due to sectarian violence, according to data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal. Wednesday’s attack was the deadliest on the community since a bomb blast at a mosque killed 61 in January.
The motives for Wednesday’s attack may have been “political or sectarian in nature,” according to a statement on the website of the Aga Khan Development Foundation, which was started by Prince Karim Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the community. Sixteen women and 27 men were among those killed, according to the statement.
The KSE100 equity index erased the day’s gains of as much as 0.6 percent after the attack as some investors booked profits, Faisal Bilwani, head of international equity at Karachi-based Elixir Securities Ltd., said in an e-mail. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the attack “deeply saddening and utterly condemnable,” in a post on Twitter.