Gunmen killed one person and wounded at least four others outside a Shia mosque in Islamabad, police said on Wednesday, days after an Islamist protest ended in the city.
The firing erupted as people left the Bab-ul-Ilm mosque following evening prayers in Islamabad’s I-8 sector. “Two gunmen approached a water cooler installed outside the mosque’s main gate and filled their glasses with water, then opened fire indiscriminately on people as they came out,” said local police official Qasim Ahmad. He said the gunmen arrived on foot and then ran away after the shooting, disappearing into a nearby greenbelt.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.
Shias make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan’s 200 million people. Attacks by Sunni hardliners against the minority group, along with other sectarian violence, have claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade. However sectarian attacks in the capital are rare.
The shooting comes days after a military-brokered deal ended weeks-long anti-blasphemy protests in Islamabad that saw seven killed and hundreds wounded in clashes with police. The violence erupted over the weekend after police and paramilitary forces launched a bungled attempt to clear the sit-in, igniting fresh demonstrations in cities across the country, including in Lahore and Karachi.
“We wanted this protest to end soon after receiving intelligence information that miscreants might try to spark sectarian unrest by carrying out subversion at the protest,” interior minister Ahsan Iqbal told a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday. “This was what we have been fearing,” he added.
The previously little-known hardline group Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan staged the demonstration demanding the resignation of Pakistan’s law minister Zahid Hamid over a small, hastily-reversed amendment to the oath election candidates must swear. The demonstrators had linked the alteration to blasphemy, a profoundly sensitive charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan.
The law minister resigned on Monday with protest leaders saying the government had agreed to meet all their demands, sparking fears among many Pakistanis that a potentially dangerous precedent had been set after officials capitulated to a relatively small number of protesters.