Pakistan stock exchange attacked by armed men

Hannah Ellis-Petersen
Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Gunmen have attacked the Pakistan stock exchange in Karachi, killing two security guards and a police officer. Police said the four assailants were also killed.

The attackers arrived in a car at the stock exchange gates at around 10am on Monday armed with rifles, explosives and hand grenades, and began firing shots and hurling explosives at the security guards at the entrance.

The building is in a high-security zone and houses the Pakistan state bank as well the headquarters of national and international financial institutions.

Location of Karachi stock exchange

Special forces surrounded the compound and the attackers were killed. Another security guard was seriously injured.

Faisal Edhi, head of the Edhi Foundation, which operates ambulance services, witnessed the attack from his offices located opposite the stock exchange and later attended the scene to help with rescue efforts.

“The gunfire began around 10am and was non-stop for about 30 minutes,” he said. “When I arrived the firing was in its last stages and the dead bodies of two attackers were lying by the outside gate, close to the barrier. We found the other two attackers on the floor by the main entry to the stock exchange building, they were shot before they could enter. One was dead but the other was still breathing. We brought him to the emergency ward at Civil hospital but he died there.”

Inside the stock exchange, Iqbal Edhi, an employee, said they had locked the office doors when they heard gunfire. “This entire period of the attack our stock exchange did not stop, it kept working,” he said.

Rizwan Ahmend, a police officer at the scene, said food supplies were found on the bodies of the gunmen, indicating they may have planned a long siege. A bomb disposal squad swept the building for any explosives.

The Baloch Liberation Army, a separatist militant group from the neighbouring province of Balochistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Imran Ismail, the governor of Sindh province, tweeted: “Strongly condemn the attack on [the stock exchange] aimed at tarnishing our relentless war on terror. Have instructed … security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators are caught alive and their handlers are accorded exemplary punishments. We shall protect Sindh at all costs.”

The Karachi stock exchange is Pakistan’s largest and oldest stock exchange. Usually there are more than 6,000 employees working in the compound, but on Monday it was relatively empty as people have been working from home owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Shah Meer Baloch contributed to this report