ISLAMABAD - Unknown gunmen shot dead a renowned singer of Sufi devotional music, or Qawwali, in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi on Wednesday.
Police say two men riding a motorcycle fired on Amjad Sabri's car in the city’s busy Liaquatabad area and fled the scene. The 45-year-old singer died from his wounds as he was being driven to a hospital.
A splinter faction of the extremist Pakistani Taliban later claimed responsibility, saying Sabri was on its list of targets; independent verification of the claim was not possible.
The news of Sabri’s killing instantly sparked nationwide outrage and condemnation, particularly among millions of followers of Sufism, a mystical form of Islam practiced in Pakistan and India for centuries. Fundamentalist Muslims reject Sufism, saying it has nothing to do with Islam.
The rise of Islamist extremism in Pakistan in recent years has often led to attacks on people and shrines linked to Sufism.
Pakistani paramilitary forces, together with police, have been conducting security operations in Karachi for nearly three years against armed wings of political parties and outlawed Islamist groups believed to have taken refuge in the country’s largest city and commercial hub.
The security action led to a significant decline in sectarian, political and criminal violence in Karachi. However, in recent days, the violence appears to have resurfaced, with police reporting several people shot and killed.
Separately, authorities also say they do not know the whereabouts of a son of the chief justice of the Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital city.
Witnesses and police say masked gunmen kidnapped Awais Ali Shah from a shopping center in the city’s posh Clifton locality Monday afternoon. The motives for that crime are also not known.