At least seven people were killed when an attack by gunmen on the Pakistani stock exchange building in the southern port city of Karachi was foiled on Monday, police said.
The dead include all four attackers, two Pakistan Stock Exchange security guards, and a policeman, Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon and Major Gen. Omer Bukhari, head of the Rangers paramilitary force, told a press conference. At least seven people were also injured in the brazen attack, two critically.
In a statement, outlawed Baloch militant group the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a series targeting security forces and government installations.
The BLA along with other militant outfits have long been fighting for secession of the southwestern Balochistan province, which they claim was forcibly incorporated into Pakistan when it was founded in 1947.
Memon said the heavily armed attackers tried to barge into the building through the parking lot but were intercepted by security guards and the police deployed at the entrance.
The terrorists, he said, hurled a hand grenade to force their way into the building, where a large number of brokers were engaged in routine trading.
However, he said, the attackers could not get into the building and were killed at the entrance within eight minutes.
“The building has been cleared after a combing operation, and handed over to the local police,” he added.
Bukhari said the quantity of weapons, food, and other items recovered from the slain terrorists suggested that they intended to take over 1,000 people present inside the building hostage and likely kill them.
Farrukh Khan, the stock exchange director, told reporters that trading continued despite the attack.
Suggesting “foreign hands” may have been behind the attack, Bukhari said: “The involvement of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the intelligence agency of Pakistan’s longtime rival India, could not be ruled out.”
“RAW’s frustration is evident,” he added.
Pakistan’s National security Adviser Moeed Yusuf said in a series of tweets that the attack was sponsored by a state that has enmity with Islamabad.
“Pakistan’s enemy is naked in its aggression. Make no mistake, today’s attack in Karachi is state-sponsored terrorism against Pakistan,” he said.
Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, information minister of the Sindh province, whose capital is Karachi, pointed the finger at RAW, holding it responsible for the attack.
The Balochistan Liberation Army had claimed responsibility for a similar attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi in November 2018 which killed seven people.