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Terrorism

Pakistan investigates possible Iran role in 2011 attacks on Saudis

Suspects arrested in connection with the attacks are members of the al-Mehdi faction of Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), a proscribed Iran-backed Shia terrorist group, say Pakistani officials.

By Zia Ur Rehman


A pedestrian walks past the marked spot where Hassan al-Qahtani, an employee at the Saudi consulate in Karachi, was killed by gunmen in Karachi May 16, 2011. [Rizwan Tabassum/AFP]

A pedestrian walks past the marked spot where Hassan al-Qahtani, an employee at the Saudi consulate in Karachi, was killed by gunmen in Karachi May 16, 2011. [Rizwan Tabassum/AFP]

KARACHI -- Pakistani authorities, at the behest of an earlier request by Saudi Arabia, have reopened two cases involving attacks on Saudi diplomats in 2011 linked to a banned Iran-backed Shia militant group.

On December 13, a nine-member Saudi delegation met with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, as well as local officials from the Sindh Home Department and senior police officers, to discuss progress in the investigation of the May 2011 killing of Hassan al-Qahtani, an employee at the Saudi consulate in Karachi, and a grenade attack on the consulate just days earlier.

Pakistani officials have linked Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), a proscribed Pakistani Shia terrorist group, to both attacks and say the group's objective was to stoke tensions between the nation's Sunni and Shia communities and between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

In a report submitted to Sindh's Home Department after the Saudi request, Pakistani police officials probing the assassination said that three main culprits involved in the killing are members of the al-Mehdi faction of the SMP, the Urdu daily Ummat reported December 11.

Three other suspects are now hiding in Iran, said the report.

A long-running investigation

"In the past, law enforcement agencies in Karachi had arrested several SMP members for their involvement in fueling sectarian violence," Raees Ahmed, a Karachi-based security analyst, told Pakistan Forward.

A long-running crackdown on sectarian outfits has weakened the SMP considerably, he said.

On May 16, 2011, unknown gunmen on two motorcyclists killed Hassan al-Qahtani outside the Saudi consulate in Karachi, just days after other unidentified attackers threw hand grenades at the consulate.

Both times, the assailants escaped.

A day after al-Qahtani's death in 2011, law enforcement officials arrested Muntazir Imam, an SMP member, in connection with the slaying. He was also accused of other murders, including those of rival Islamist leaders.

Imam told investigators that more than 200 SMP activists, trained abroad and heavily armed, were hunting down Sunnis, Pakistan Today reported at the time.

Meanwhile, on December 30, 2016, a Karachi court sentenced Zaki Kazmi, a militant affiliated with the al-Mehdi faction, to 14 years in prison for the grenade attack at the Saudi consulate.

He carried out the attack with his accomplice Tabish Hussain, also known as Asif Mamu, according to prosecutors.

Iran compromising Pakistani-Saudi relations

Various reports have pointed to Iran's involvement in the killing of al-Qahtani.

Saudi officials, citing Pakistani intelligence reports, have also said the attacker was an SMP member, noting that the terror outfit is linked with Iran's Quds Force, a special forces unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IGRC), the Washington Post reported October 13, 2011.

Pakistani officials and security analysts have been sounding the alarm over the growing threat of Iranian intelligence activities inside Pakistan, which has implications for relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this month, Riyadh transferred to Islamabad a second tranche of $1 billion (Rs. 139 billion) as part of a $3 billion (Rs. 417 billion) support package meant to help ease Pakistan's financial crisis and to boost the country's foreign reserves. Pakistan received the first $1 billion in November and is expecting to receive the third disbursement from Riyadh next month.

The IRGC has been continuing to recruit Pakistani Shia through the Zainabiyoun Brigade to fight as mercenaries for Iranian military interests in Syria.

Over the past six months, the IRGC's Zainabiyoun Brigade has recruited more than 1,600 new fighters from Pakistan, a senior Pakistani intelligence official told Pakistan Forward in October on the condition of anonymity.

"We have concrete evidence that Iran is boosting its influence via its proxies, but rest assured it will never succeed in its nefarious designs," he added.

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Comment bubble | 01-02-2019

Have there been any investigations about Saudi Arab’s involvement in Pakistan? … who were behind Sipah-e-Sahaba and Laskar-e-Jhangvi.. secret agencies knows everything.. I am a Sunni but reality should be expressed instead of being hypocrite.. thousands of Shias were killed but nothing happened, but one Saudi was murdered and it resulted in 14 years imprisonment and Iranian link was also established.. others should also be linked.

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Comment bubble | 01-02-2019

It seems that this news has been fabricated in pleasure of getting an aid of 3 billion from Saudi Arabia… secondly, Iran, Russia and Syria have jointly confronted ISIL terrorist organization (whom whole the world declares terrorist and all the Muslims except Khwarijs are vexed of them) and whole the world knows that, then the question is that shouldn’t they countered it? Thirdly an organization named Sipah-e-Muhammad was formed and the reason behind was a homicide of Shias and an estimated 50,000 Shias were killed, in such circumstances a few Shias lost their temperament and they took such step; but even then scholars didn’t back them and kept calm, and they proved about who are the real terrorists? And now this organization is no more… Fourthly Iran is in Syria at discretion of Syria itself, so there shouldn’t be any loose talk against Iran without any reason. Fifth, demolishing the tomb of Hazrat Zainab was one of the objectives of ISIL, so support of the government of Syria was a demand of faith for which Sunnis and Shias have sacrificed together, so it’s legitimate if Zainabyun went there. Sixth, now Saudi Arabia has exposed and Wahabiat, which is a factory of fatwas of Infidelity and heathenism, has been getting countless aid from America, so that Wahabiat may flourish in the world, because one thought of Wahabiat and America is common i.e. to eliminate the signs of Islam and Muslims from the world; and America and Saudi Arabia have created ISIL like brothers and they have been supporting them openly.

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Comment bubble | 01-01-2019

Allah bless you, For the first time someone has written with detail and has unveiled the hypocracy. Thank you

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Comment bubble | 12-31-2018

Good post

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Comment bubble | 12-30-2018

Very good—Iranian agenda in Pakistan must be stopped, and Iranian clerics and sanctuaries have also become a root cause of violence in Pakistan. Iran’s loyal clerics and their agenda—they have been playing with people’s conscience by calling themselves Khamnai leaders; they are making them slaves to Khamnai. Iran’s loyalists like Sajid Naqvi, Jawad Naqvi, Taqi Multani and Jan Ali Kazmi should be arrested.

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Comment bubble | 12-30-2018

If all of this is known then what steps have been taken till now in order to stop Iran’s proxy war? And this was neither the first, nor the last attack. If Iran’s trouble-making is stopped, specifically Pakistan and in general whole the region can get rid of sectarianism.

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