KARACHI: Four Rangers personnel were killed when unidentified assailants opened fire at a Rangers checkpost in Baldia Town on Friday, officials said.

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The law enforcement personnel were on routine duty, when two gun-wielding men riding a motorcycle opened fire at the checkpost soon after Friday prayers. Three personnel died on the spot while one survived the assault but died later of his injuries, officials said. While talking to reporters after the incident, Rangers Director General Major General Bilal Akbar said the assailants wanted to attack a nearby mosque but on seeing Rangers security, resorted to firing at the personnel.

“Perhaps the mosque and the affiliated madrassa were the target of the terrorists,” Akbar said. He said four security personnel were on board a vehicle, while two each were on board two motorcycles at the time of the attack. The Rangers DG vowed to apprehend those behind the attack. The area has been sealed by security forces and a search operation is currently underway. Rangers is currently spearheading a grand operation against criminal elements in Karachi.

The ‘operation’ against criminal elements in Pakistan’s commercial hub was initiated back in September 2013 after the federal cabinet empowered Rangers to lead a targeted advance with the support of police against criminals already identified by federal military and civilian agencies for their alleged involvement in targeted killings, kidnappings for ransom, extortion and terrorism in Karachi. A high-level apex committee meeting chaired by the Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif on May 14, 2015 decided to implement effective policing and surveillance in the “vast suburbs of Karachi”, to prevent what the military spokesperson said were “sneaking terrorist attacks”.

Amid resentment and criticism from certain political circles over the ‘Karachi operation’, the military establishment in August said that there would be no let-up in actions by law enforcement agencies “to ensure a peaceful and terror-free Karachi”. Although terror-related incidents have been reduced up to 60 per cent in the two years since the commencement of the Karachi operation, sleeper cells of terror outfits still exist in the metropolis and law enforcers have been making concerted efforts to eliminate the same, Karachi Police AIG Mushtaq Maher said in early September.

The city police chief had said 3,000 hardcore criminals had been arrested, while 246 terrorists, 38 kidnappers and ten extortionists had been killed so far in police encounters. Maher said that car-snatching incidents reported in the city were the lowest in the past 15 years while motorcycle-snatching incidents were on the rise, which he said will be curtailed. Rangers spokesman Colonel Amjad maintained that 913 terrorists including 550 target killers were nabbed while 15,400 illegal weapons were recovered from the custody of criminals operating within the city.

Meanwhile, Rangers foiled a major plan to sabotage the local bodies election (LBE) in Karachi. According to media reports, on a tip-off, Rangers conducted raid houses in Gulshan-e-Maimar colony and arrested a suspected terrorist affiliated with a banned outfit and wanted to police. Police shifted him to an unspecified location for interrogation. In another raid in Shah Gulshan Colony, Rangers arrested two suspects affiliated with a criminal gang. A Rangers spokesperson said those arrested from Shah Gulshan Colony have revealed during interrogation that they wanted to attack a poling station to sabotage polling process.