Riyadh / Islamabad / Kuala Lumpur, Asharq Al-Awsat – A Saudi diplomat, Hassan Bin Misfir Al-Qahtani, aged 37, was killed yesterday in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, after being shot by unknown assailants whilst driving to work at the Saudi consulate in Karachi. The Pakistani Taliban later claimed responsibly for the attack.
Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Abdulaziz al-Ghadeer, told Asharq Al-Awsat that investigations have been ongoing since the first attack on the Saudi consulate, which saw unidentified persons riding a motorcycle throw two grenades at the Saudi consulate in Karachi on Wednesday, five days prior to the assassination of the Saudi diplomat. The Saudi ambassador stressed that a full report will be issued disclosing all the relevant information concerning both attacks.
Ambassador al-Ghadeer played down reports that the two attacks were connected to Washington’s announcement that Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden had been killed earlier this month during a US raid on his residential compound in Abbottabad, calling on the public not to rush to any conclusions about the identity or motivation of the attackers until all investigations have been completed.
The Saudi ambassador to Pakistan strongly denounced the “criminal act” which led to the death of Saudi diplomat, Hassan Bin Misfir Al-Qahtani, aged 37, who was a member of the Saudi consulate in Karachi.
The Saudi envoy also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the official authorities are preparing to send a private airplane to transport the diplomat’s body to Saudi Arabia for burial, and confirmed that Riyadh is fully cooperating with the Pakistani authorities in the investigations into Al-Qahtani’s death, and in order to ensure the protection of the Saudi consulate and the consulate staff.
Informed sources also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the authorities had transferred the Al-Qahtani family in Karachi from their residence to a Pakistani hotel.
The Karachi police revealed that Saudi diplomat Hassan Bin Misfir Al-Qahtani was driving a car belonging to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Karachi, bearing the license plate number CC5264, when unknown assailants fired upon and killed him in the Karachi neighborhood of Khayaban-i-Shahbaz, not far from the Saudi Arabian consulate. His body was later transferred to the Jinah Hospital, in Karachi.
Sindh region police chief, Fayaaz Leghari, said that the Pakistani authorities have impounded the car, and investigations are underway to apprehend the unknown assailants who fired upon and killed the Saudi diplomat.
Preliminary information seems to indicate that two motorcycles pulled up alongside the car being driven by the Saudi diplomat, and an unknown number of assailants, reportedly between 2 and 4 men, fired more than 10 bullets into the car, killing Saudi diplomat al-Qahtani. Information also indicates that the Saudi diplomat had left his residence in Karachi and was driving to the consulate when he was killed.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that a special investigative team had been set up to provide an immediate report on the attack, and that the Pakistani authorities would take all the necessary measures to apprehend and punish those responsible for this crime. He also revealed that security measures had been stepped up around the Saudi consulate in Karachi, and that all Saudi Arabians in the city were being provided with protection.
Last week, the Saudi consulate in Karachi had been attacked when two unknown assailants, also riding motorcycles, threw two grenades at the building, although this attack did not lead to any loss of life.
For its part, the Saudi consulate in Karachi has taken all security precautious to ensure the safety of its staff, increasing security around the consulate and providing security escorts for all diplomats. In addition to this, the Saudi consulate is providing round the clock security to the 150 Saudi students studying at the Saudi School in Karachi, in addition to the 90 Saudi university students studying in the city.
Diplomatic sources confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that this security was being coordinated with the Saudi Arabian Cultural attaché to Pakistan.
Saudi Consulate-General in Karachi, Falih al-Ruhaili, told Asharq Al-Awsat, following a security briefing yesterday, that “the attack took place at 08:45 am [local time], by two figures who were riding motorcycles.”
Al-Ruhaili also confirmed that the security around the Saudi consulate in Karachi had been increased, in cooperation with the Pakistani security forces. He said stressed that the entire neighborhood surrounding the Saudi consulate in Karachi, which is also home to the UAE and Turkish consulates, was witnessing increased security in light of the recent attacks.
As for the Pakistani Taliban’s claim of responsibility for the attack which led to the death of Saudi diplomat Hassan Bin Misfir Al-Qahtani, Saudi Consulate-General Falih al-Ruhaili told Asharq Al-Awsat that he could not be sure of this.
For his part, a Taliban spokesman, speaking via telephone from an undisclosed location, said that “we are responsible for the killing of the [Saudi Arabian] diplomat yesterday. Until America stops chasing Al Qaeda and stops drone strikes we will keep carrying out such attacks.