Karachi, May 16: Four motorcycle-borne Taliban militants today shot and killed a diplomat of Saudi Arabia, a staunch US ally, claiming it was to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden and continued drone attacks in Pakistan's volatile north-west.
The incident came days after explosives devices were lobbed at Saudi Arabia's consulate here.
The Saudi diplomat, identified in media reports as Hasan M M Al-Kahtani, was attacked by four gunmen riding two motorcycles while he was driving to work. He was said to be head of security at the consulate.
Police officials said the gunmen intercepted the car and sprayed over a dozen bullets at the victim. “The diplomat was driving a vehicle with diplomatic plates when two motorcycle riders unleashed a hail of gunfire at Khayaban-e-Shahbaz in Defence,” city police chief, Fayyaz Leghari said.
“We are investigating if it was linked to the Abbottabad operation or was an isolated incident,” he said. Leghari said the man killed was apparently a junior level officer at the consulate.
The entire staff of the Saudi Arabian consulate in the city was shifted to a unknown destination in high alert after the killing in the posh Defence housing authority area. The Saudi diplomat, identified in media reports as Hasan M M Al-Kahtani.
The attack occurred a short distance from the Bahrain consulate. The Saudi Embassy in Islamabad confirmed that the victim was a diplomat.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan said it had carried out the attack on the Saudi diplomat in retaliation for the US attacks on the al-Qaeda, TV channels reported. The TTP said it would continue to carry out attacks until America stops chasing al-Qaeda and stops drone strikes in the tribal areas.
A Taliban spokesman called the media to take responsibility. The diplomat was declared dead on arrival at the Jinnah Hospital.
Police said soon after the diplomat was killed the security agencies moved the entire staff including Saudi nationals to a five star hotel for security reasons. “The consulate staff is being provided round the clock security until the government takes decision on what next to do,” a senior official said.
The TTP and al-Qaeda had threatened to carry out retaliatory attacks after US navy seals killed bin Laden, a critic of the Saudi government.
Pakistan and the US have strongly condemned the killing of the Saudi diplomat.
A statement issued by Pakistan's Foreign Office said Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar spoke to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal on phone and expressed her shock and anger over the killing.
Khar said a full investigation into the incident was underway and the perpetrators of the crime will be brought to justice.
Earlier on May 11, two men riding a motorcycle lobbed two low intensity explosive devices at the Saudi consulate in Karachi though no one was injured in the attack.
Saudi officials said the blasts caused minor damage to buildings within the consulate compound.
Saudi Assistant Foreign Minister Prince Khaled bin Saud had urged Pakistani authorities to ensure the protection of the kingdom's diplomatic missions in the country.
Today's attack came a fortnight after US special forces raided a compound in the garrison city of Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden, a critic of the Saudi government.
Al-Qaeda and Taliban have pledged to take avenge bin Laden's death. PTI