Four gunmen have been shot and killed in a terror attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange, leaving four security guards, a police officer and a bystander dead.
The attackers arrived at the walled compound in Karachi around 10am local time in a grey car before starting their attack.
The men – from a terror group called the Balochistan Liberation Army – threw grenades at a security post near the entrance before opening fire with AK-47 rifles.
Traders scrambled for cover in their offices and were evacuated out a back entrance as the attackers tried to fight their way inside before heavily armed police arrived.
Four gunmen have been shot dead after launching a gun and grenade attack on the Pakistani Stock Exchange which also left four security guards, a police officer and a bystander dead
Officers said the gunmen began their attack in a car park before attempting to storm through the main entrance while firing at security
The men arrived in this car around 10am – wielding AK-47 rifles while carrying backpacks filled with extra ammunition and grenades
Officers told Geo TV that the attackers were wearing off-duty police uniforms and carrying backpacks that were filled with explosives and extra ammunition.
Rizwan Ahmend, a police official at the scene, said the gunmen were also carrying food – indicating they planned on a long siege.
Abid Ali Habib, director of the exchange, said the attack began in a car park with the men firing indiscriminately into the compound where the exchange is located.
They then made their way to the main entrance, where they exchanged fire with security guards.
Video taken from across the street shows a car parked close to the entrance while two men take cover behind concrete pillars and fire shots using rifles.
What appears to be a dead body can be seen laying in the street.
The attackers then made their way inside the high-walled compound surrounding the stock exchange.
More footage taken some time later then showed Pakistani police and paramilitaries storming through the same entrance, where two bodies – believed to be of two attackers – could be seen.
More gunfire then took place inside the compound, with blood pictured on a stairwell on the outside of one of the buildings.
Police later said the blood was from a security guard, not an attacker.
The body of a suspected gunman is loaded into the back of an ambulance and driven away from the Pakistan Stock Exchange
The attackers exchanged gunfire with security guards at the main gates before moving inside the walled compound where the exchange is located
Heavily armed police and paramilitaries (pictured) arrived on the scene and shot all four of the attackers dead before they could get inside the exchange
Pakistani Rangers (pictured) conduct searches of all buildings inside the compound, which contains the offices of several major banks as well as the stock exchange
All of the attackers were killed before they could enter any of the buildings inside the compound, which includes the headquarters of financial companies.
The Pakistan Stock Exchange did not suspend trading during the attack, managing director Furrukh Khan said.
A terrorist group known as the Balochistan Liberation Army subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack.
The group, which is most-active in Pakistan, aims to create an independent and ethnic Balochistan state which would span parts of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
They have been active since at least 2000 and carried out their last major attack in 2018, on the Chinese consulate – also in Karachi.
That attack left four people – two policemen and two civilians – dead, while the four attackers were also killed.
The group has targeted infrastructure projects along with Chinese workers in Pakistan multiple times in recent years.
In May last year, the BLA attacked a luxury hotel near the Afghan border at Gwadar, where a port development is the flagship project of a multi-billion dollar national infrastructure project funded by China.
Inside the stock exchange, broker Yaqub Memon says he and others were huddled inside their offices, before police entered and evacuated them.
The main building of the Pakistan Stock Exchange is seen inside the walled compound where it is located, in Karachi’s main financial district
Security personnel surround the Stock Exchange Building after it was attacked
Bosses said the exchange is usually staffed by up to 8,000 people, though that number is currently lower than usual due to coronavirus social distancing.
They could not give an exact figure of people in the building when the attack took place.
It is located in the heart of the city’s financial district, alongside the headquarters of several national and international financial institutions.
The Karachi stock exchange is Pakistan’s largest and oldest stock exchange, incorporated today with the exchanges in Islamabad and Lahore.
Karachi was once a hotspot for crime and violence, with heavily armed groups tied to politicians frequently gunning down opponents and launching attacks on residential areas.
But the situation has largely stabilised in recent years following operations by security agencies against armed political outfits and Islamist militants.
The operations were coupled with a series of large-scale military offensives targeting homegrown insurgents as well as Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants – often based near the lawless border with Afghanistan.
Militant groups still retain the ability to launch periodic attacks in many rural areas of the country.
Monday’s attack comes a week after a grenade was thrown at a line of people waiting outside a government welfare office in the city, killing one and injuring eight others, according to a statement from municipal authorities.