A Saudi diplomat was killed in a hail of bullets on his way to the country’s consulate in Karachi on Monday, the second attack on Saudi interests in the city in less than a week.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban denied carrying out the assassination and authorities said they were investigating possible links to sectarian groups or the death of Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US forces on May 2. Earlier, AFP had reported that a spokesman for the militant outfit had claimed the attack.
Saudi Arabia said Hasan al-Khatani had been on his way to work at the consulate and demanded that Pakistan tighten security measures for its diplomats, following a grenade attack on the mission building last week.
Police said Khatani worked in the consulate’s security department and was driving a vehicle with diplomatic plates when two motorcycle riders unleashed a stream of gunfire at a crossroads in the city’s upmarket Defence neighbourhood.
Karachi city police chief Iqbal Mahmood said militants fired four rounds, killing him at the scene, and fled on their motorcycle.
“They came on a motorbike, they fired four shots. One bullet hit his head and he died on the spot,” he told reporters.
“We are investigating whether the assailants were provided any cover by a car in the area,” he added.
“We are investigating if it was linked to the Abbottabad operation or was an isolated incident,” said provincial home ministry official Sharfuddin Memon, calling the dead man a junior officer at the consulate.
A six-member police and intelligence team would investigate both attacks on the Saudi mission, whether they are connected and who was responsible, he said.
Last Wednesday, assailants on a motorbike threw two grenades at the consulate in what officials said could have been reaction to bin Laden’s death.
The TTP, blamed for some of the worst acts of violence in the country, last Friday claimed a double suicide bombing that killed 89 people outside a police training centre as their first revenge for Bin Laden.
But spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said in a telephone call to AFP: “We are not claiming the attack in which a Saudi diplomat was killed.
“We support the action but we are not afraid. Had we done it, we would have claimed it,” he added.
“Apart from a possible reaction by militants to bin Laden’s killing, we also suspect a sectarian link,” one senior security official told AFP.
“Normally the Taliban accept responsibility for attacks carried out by their operatives, but in this case they are silent, which is why we are not clear.”
Saudi condemns ‘criminal’ attack
Saudi Arabia condemned the attack as “criminal” and called on Pakistan to tighten security measures around the consulate in Karachi and the Islamabad embassy, a foreign ministry official was quoted as saying by state media.
Last week, Saudi Arabia condemned the grenade assault as a “terror attack”, saying it had “full confidence” in Pakistan’s ability to bring the assailants to justice and provide the necessary protection to the Saudi mission.
The United States Embassy in Pakistan also condemned the murder of the Saudi diplomat.