By Syed Raza Hassan
KARACHI, Islamabad (Reuters) - A prominent Pakistani cleric survived an assassination bid by motorcycle-borne gunmen on Friday that killed two guards and critically injured another cleric in the southern city of Karachi, police said.
The attack in an eastern district of the port city infamous for its violence came as the cleric and former sharia judge of the country's Supreme Court, Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, was heading to a mosque to lead Friday prayers.
"Allah has been gracious, he is safe," the city's police chief, Amir Shaikh, told Reuters, calling the attack a conspiracy to sabotage peace in Karachi and the country.
Usmani and his fellow cleric, Maulana Amir Shahab, were travelling in two cars, when at least four attackers riding on two motorcycles opened fire and fled, police said.
"They used multiple handguns," Raja Umar Khattab, a police officer of the Counter Terrorism Department of Sindh province, told Reuters.
The attackers had followed the cleric's car for some distance and carried out surveillance of his route, he added.
"Maulana Amir Shahab is in critical condition with gunshot wounds to the head," Dr Seemin Jamali of a nearby hospital, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, told Reuters, adding that another person had been brought in dead.
The car in which Usmani was travelling went to another hospital, where his guard was declared dead on arrival, police said.
Reuters could not immediately reach Usmani to seek comment.
Crime in Karachi, from targeted killings to extortion, has fallen sharply since a campaign to rein it in began in 2013, led by Pakistan's paramilitary Rangers.
As a judge on the shariat appellate bench of Pakistan's Supreme Court from 1982 to 2002, Usmani specialised in Islamic jurisprudence and financial matters.
(Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)