KARACHI, Jan 18: Gunmen riding on motorcycles shot dead three Express News workers on Friday after ambushing a stationary DSNG van in a busy neighbourhood of Karachi.
This was the third and most lethal strike on Express Media Group and its staff in the space of five months. In two previous attacks, the main offices of Express Media Group, were targeted.
Friday’s ambush took the lives of a technician, security guard and a driver, all of whom were seated in the front of the van.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the latest attack in a live telephone call from Afghanistan to Express News anchor Javed Chaudhry.
“We accept responsibility. I would like to present some of its reasons: At present, Pakistani media is playing the role of (enemies and spread) venomous propaganda against Tehreek-e-Taliban. They have assumed the (role of) opposition. We had intimated the media earlier and warn it once again that (they must) side with us in this venomous propaganda,” TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told Express News.
“We have warned Express News a number of times. I have contacted Express News myself and conveyed to them our grievances,” he added.
Driver Khalid, technician Waqas and security guard Ashraf – died within moments of the incident.
“The three victims were shot multiple times from close range,” said the medico-legal officer at the hospital. “They died due to excessive bleeding,” he added.
Law enforcers found at least 17 shell casings from 9mm and 32-bore pistols at the crime scene. These were sent to the forensic division.
Investigators believe that a single group is behind all three attacks on Express Media Group.
“I am 100% certain this is a targeted attack,” said District West police chief Javed Odho. He said the terrorists who carried out the attack had been identified as Taliban.
“An investigation team has been constituted… the team will also collect the details of police officers who investigated the previous attacks on Express Media Group,” he said.
According to eyewitness accounts, the assailants were at least four in number.
“They were clad in shalwar kameez and approached the van on motorcycles,” one witness said. “After carrying out the attack, they fled in the direction of the Banaras locality,” he added.
Interestingly, a Rangers picket was set up at walking distance from the van. Some policemen were deployed near the scene of the crime as well, witnesses said.
“Still, the Rangers and police did not even think to rush towards the crime scene and rush the victims to the hospital,” a witness said.
All five cameras installed near the crime scene were also reportedly out of order.
Catalogue of terror
In the first attack on August 16, 2013, unidentified gunmen opened fire on the group’s office in Karachi, injuring one female staffer and a security guard. In the second attack, on December 2, 2013, at least four armed assailants opened fire and tossed homemade bombs at the same office, injuring a guard in the process.
Despite visiting the Express Media office in Karachi twice and constituting investigation teams to probe the two incidents, law enforcement agencies have been unable to arrest even a single perpetrator.
“The attacks [on Express Media Group] are acts of terrorism… It is not the job of the local police to deal with terrorism… responsibility for that rests with intelligence agencies and specialised units,” said District West police chief Javed Odho in response to a query by The Express Tribune.
“Despite all this, policemen are working against terrorism in Karachi,” he added.
Odho defended the police force against the charge of negligence, saying no policemen were available in the area at the time of the attack.
According to Express Media Group Coordinator Muhammad Ali, the DSNG was stationed at a routine spot. “We moved the van at around 7 in the evening to the location, as was our routine,” he said. “The staffers did not even get to eat… for them it was duty first,” he said.
The deceased Express staffers had been associated with the group for the past one-and-a-half year. As news of their killings spread, their families and relatives reached Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.
“We are poor people… We never wronged anyone,” lamented a relative of one of the deceased. “They were martyred in a cowardly act of terrorism,” he said.
Express News bureau chief Aslam Khan also condemned the attack.
“Until and unless the government and law enforcers conduct a full-fledged operation against terrorists, it will hard to stop such attacks,” he said. “One of the main reasons behind this third attack was that the law enforcers did not take the previous ones seriously.”
The inspector general of police in Sindh called for an immediate report on the attack. He also directed the Karachi police chief to look into claims of police ‘slackness and irresponsibility’ and take appropriate action — if reports were verified.
‘War of ideologies’
The TTP spokesman explained that “this is a war of ideologies and whosoever will oppose us in this war of ideologies, will play the role of enemy and we will also attack them.”
“They were killed because they were a part of the propaganda against us. I also want to tell them that they should not work at the media channels, whose names we have also mentioned. Secondly, we have sacrificed to achieve our goal,” he told Express News.
“We fight for the establishment of Islamic system in this country. To kill certain people is not our aim. We are fighting to achieve our goal. And the people who oppose us, we will fight with them. We have no personal feud with anyone,” he added.
According to Ehsanullah Ehsan, the media must “mend its behaviour” and do balanced reporting, which is impartial, which is transparent and not (tainted with propaganda) then “we will not attack anyone, neither we want to kill anyone”.
“I promise you that if Pakistani media comes out of this war and limits itself to its journalistic role, then we will not carry out any attack on them. We value journalists and I myself belong to the field of journalism. It is our desire (not) to kill any innocent person or any such person.
‘But the people who oppose us then we are compelled to do (this). I completely agree that if the media gives us proper coverage and (does not spread) what is venomous propaganda and the war of ideologies which harm our ideology, the ideology of the whole Pakistan and the ideology of Muslims, and desist from spreading nudity and obscenity then we have no war against anyone. We do not want to fight with people on a personal basis. We fight for war and we will not be strict on those who leave opposing Islam.”
The TTP spokesman said his group would “keep fighting all those who oppose Islam and Muslims, harm the ideology of Pakistan, (spread) obscenity and nudity and destroy the real face of Islam.” “And (this is) our mission and we will continue to sacrifice our lives for it.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2014.