Pakistan security forces killed four terrorists armed with “AK-47s, hand grenades, and rocket launchers” who tried to storm the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) in Karachi in a failed hostage attempt on Monday morning, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported.
One police sub-inspector and three security guards stationed at the PSX compound died in the attack, according to a statement by Karachi police. Seven people, including three police officials, were injured.
Armed with rocket launchers, hand grenades, and automatic rifles, the terrorists attempted to enter the compound, situated in a high-security zone in Pakistan’s business capital where the headquarters of several major banks and multinational corporations are also located.
The armed militants launched a grenade as part of their failed attempt to gain entry to the complex, according to the Indian Express.
“The attackers had hand grenades with them,” Faisal Edhi, head of Pakistan’s Edhi charity and ambulance service, told Al Jazeera from the site of the attack after it ended. “We were hearing explosions going off.”
As reported by Al Jazeera, the four gunmen “fired indiscriminately as they charged past a security checkpoint at the compound’s entrance. Two attackers were killed at that checkpoint, security officials said, while the other two were shot dead while attempting to gain entrance to the building.”
Pakistan’s Sindh Rangers paramilitary force led the security response to the attack with assistance from local police. Together, they “intercepted the terrorists and killed all four of them,” according to a statement by the Sindh Rangers, Dawn reported. According to Karachi police, “Advanced weaponry, hand grenades, and explosive material [were] recovered from the terrorists’ custody.”
“Every terrorist was armed with weapons that included AK-47s, hand grenades, [and] rocket launchers,” said Sindh Rangers director-general Omer Ahmed Bokhari at a press conference following the attack on Monday, Pakistan’s Geo News reported.
“They were also carrying food and water,” Bokhari added, leading security forces to conclude that the attackers were prepared for a “long siege.”
“These four attackers aimed to enter the building, and not only to kill but to create a hostage situation,” Bokhari said.
The Balochistan Liberation Army (B.L.A.), a separatist terror group in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack on social media.
Responding to the B.L.A.’s alleged involvement at Monday’s press conference, Bokhari “acknowledged that [Monday’s] attack bore similarities to an attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi that was carried out by B.L.A. militants in 2018,” Dawn reported.
For over a decade, ethnic Baloch separatists have been fighting Pakistan state authorities, the Indian Express reported. They claim to demand independence for ethnically Baloch regions of Balochistan, a Pakistani province rich in mineral deposits. Karachi, the site of Monday’s attack, is the capital of Sindh province, which borders Balochistan.
The B.L.A. has increasingly targeted Chinese interests in Balochistan, which have grown considerably in recent years due to the province becoming the center for major development projects between Pakistan and China through Beijing’s infrastructure-building Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Most recently, China has been developing Balochistan’s Gwadar Port as a key link in its BRI initiative specific to the region, called the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China envisions the CPEC as its “superhighway to the oilfields of the Middle East,” according to the Indian Express.
In late December 2016, Dawn reported that the PSX “sold 40 percent strategic shares to a Chinese consortium comprising three Chinese exchanges — China Financial Futures Exchange Company Limited [the lead bidder], Shanghai Stock Exchange, and Shenzhen Stock Exchange.”
Of the sale, former PSX chairman Arif Habib said at the time, “The divestment brings about an ideal partnership for development of the capital market in Pakistan. The arrival of Chinese investors will be another step in fostering economic development in the region.”
The B.L.A.’s alleged targeting of the PSX on Monday could have been due, in part, to China’s strong connection to the stock exchange, according to the Indian Express. At Monday’s press conference, Sindh Rangers director-general Bokhari pointed to the symbolic significance of the PSX as a possible reason for its being targeted. “The objective could be to hit the icon of Pakistan’s economy and economic activity,” he said.