Agence France Presse

Karachi, June 10:

Gunmen opened fire on the convoy of a senior Pakistani general in the troubled port of Karachi today, killing 10 members of the security forces and a bystander, but missing the targeted officer. “The corps (army) commander for Karachi was in the convoy, the assassination attempt was on the corps commander, and we deplore this kind of terrorist act,” military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said. It was the sixth deadly attack in Karachi in just over a month and the first aimed at a senior military figure. Nobody claimed responsibility but suspicion fell on Islamic militants who have been trying to kill Pakistan’s president and army chief, Pervez Musharraf.

Corps commander Lieutenant General Ahsan Saleem Hayat, the most senior officer in southern Sindh province, was being driven through the upmarket Clifton neighbourhood when his convoy came under intense fire from unknown gunmen at 8:45 am (0345 GMT), the military said. “Seven army men were killed in the attack and the others were policemen and a pedestrian,” Sultan said. Three policemen were killed and three others were wounded, Karachi police chief Tariq Jamil said. Sultan said the Karachi corps commander, Hayat, was clearly the target of today’s attack. “Those people were involved who don’t want Pakistan to prosper,” he said, adding it was too early to determine who was behind the attack. “We are investigating.”

The gunmen were apparently waiting near a bridge to launch the ambush as the convoy passed. Police retaliated but came under a hail of bullets. The last car in the convoy carrying military personnel was also hit. City police chief Jamil said a bomb exploded in the same area after the shooting, but there were no casualties from the blast. Police defused a second bomb also in area before it could explode. A senior security official linked the attack to the army’s fresh operation against Al Qaeda-linked foreign fighters hiding near the Afghan border and a stepped-up campaign against militants in Karachi. “This is the first such attack targeting a high-ranking purely military position,” the official, who asked not to be identified, said. “He is the top military man in Sindh province. It could be linked to military’s ongoing operation against Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Wana. Or it maybe the outcome of ongoing operation against Islamic militants in Karachi, we are not sure yet.”