- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan Armed assailants tied up Christian charity workers, taped their victims' mouths closed and shot them execution-style yesterday, a bullet each to the head.
The attack killed seven persons in the southern port city of Karachi, and shattered hopes that a sweeping crackdown on Islamic militants had broken the back of violent groups targeting foreigners and Pakistan's Christian minority.
One person was critically wounded in the attack on the third-floor office of the Institute for Peace and Justice, a Pakistani Christian charity. The victims, all Pakistani Christians, were bound to chairs with their hands behind their backs before being shot point-blank in the head, said Kamal Shah, Karachi's police chief.
The shooting was the latest in a string of attacks against Christian organizations that has killed at least 36 persons and wounded 100 since President Pervez Musharraf's decision to join the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and crack down on extremists at home.
Chief Shah said it was not known who was behind yesterday's attack, but police were questioning an office assistant who was tied up and beaten by the attackers, but not shot.
Authorities want to know how the gunmen got into the office, which had an electronic door that could only be opened from the inside, he said. The office assistant told police there were two gunmen, Chief Shah said.
The building in a central business district of Karachi was cordoned off after the attack, and a female relative of one of the victims was led away sobbing by police. The mother of another victim, 36-year-old Benjamin Talib, collapsed and was taken to the hospital.
"My mother is in a state of shock, and doctors say she has lost the ability to speak," Pervez Talib, the victim's brother, told reporters.
The Institute for Peace and Justice has operated in Karachi for 30 years, working with poor municipal and textile laborers to press for improved working conditions and organizing programs with local human rights groups.
Pakistan's 3.8 million Christians make up about 2.5 percent of the country's population and have been the targets of a series of recent attacks.
On Aug. 9, attackers hurled grenades at worshippers as they were leaving a church on the grounds of a Presbyterian hospital in Taxila, 25 miles west of the capital, Islamabad. Four nurses were killed and 25 persons were wounded.
Four days earlier, assailants raided a Christian school 40 miles east of Islamabad, killing six Pakistanis.
And on March 17, a grenade attack on a Protestant church in Islamabad's heavily guarded diplomatic quarter killed five persons, including an American woman, her 17-year-old daughter and the lone assailant.
Information Minister Nisar Memon denounced those responsible for yesterday's attack as "enemies of Pakistan."
"We are particularly sad about the killings in Karachi because the terrorists have targeted unarmed Christian civilians," Mr. Memon said.
He said the violence would not shake the nation's resolve. "Pakistan's cooperation with the world community in the war against terrorism will continue," he said.
Many Pakistani Christians complained yesterday that the government was failing to protect them and some took their outrage out on local officials.
"Shame, shame, shame," a crowd shouted at Karachi Mayor Naimatullah Khan when he arrived at the hospital where the bodies were taken.
Later, a crowd of 400 mostly Christian demonstrators marched on the Governor's House, demanding government protection and the arrest of the perpetrators. "Stop religious terrorism," the crowd shouted.
Before yesterday, optimism had grown that authorities were getting the upper hand over the extremists.
This month, police in Karachi arrested 23 members of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Al-Almi militant group suspected in a June bombing outside the U.S. consulate, as well as the suicide car bombing in May that killed 11 French engineers. The group also is suspected of plotting to attack a McDonald's and a KFC restaurant.
During the arrests, police found maps of two churches and a Christian school in Karachi, along with weapons and explosives. That discovery prompted authorities to remove signs from outside some churches set up in private homes and to fortify other Christian sites with sandbag bunkers.

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