ISLAMABAD/ RIYADH: Gunmen shot dead a Saudi diplomat as he was driving in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi on Monday, days after two stun grenades were tossed at the consulate building.

The victim, Hassan Misfer Al-Qahtani, was a member of the security staff at the consulate, said Iqbal Mehmood, Karachi’s deputy inspector general of police. He said the shooting was carried out by two men on a motorbike and appeared to be linked to last week’s grenade attack on the mission, which caused some damage but no injuries.

The gunmen opened fire at Al-Qahtani’s silver Toyota Corona at the intersection of Khayaban-eShaheen and Khayaban-eShahbaz streets in the city’s Defense Society area, killing the diplomat instantly.

Police officer Zameer Husain Abbasi said Al-Qahtani was alone and on his way to work when he was attacked. A 9mm pistol was used in the assault, the officer said.

An Associated Press report quoted Ahsanullah Ahsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taleban, as saying the group did not kill the diplomat, but supported the action against the Saudi diplomat.

The Kingdom denounced the assassination and expressed its confidence in the ability of Pakistani authorities to track down the criminals behind the attack and bring them to justice. Saudi Arabia also asked Pakistan to intensify measures to ensure protection of its consulate in Karachi and embassy in Islamabad as well as their staff.

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal contacted Al-Qahtani’s father and conveyed his condolences to the bereaved family. A special plane has been sent to Karachi to bring the diplomat’s body to the Kingdom.

Talking to Arab News, Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Aziz Al-Ghadeer said: “No Muslim can commit such a crime. We strongly condemn this act. Whoever has committed this crime is not a Muslim.”

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the killing and ordered the inspector general of police of the Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, to immediately start an inquiry and bring the assassins to justice. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani “expressed deep grief and sorrow” over the diplomat’s death.

“I don’t know who is going to benefit from this mad act of killing,” said Saleh Al-Khathlan, deputy chief of the National Society for Human Rights. He said: “The Saudi government will not change its policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan or terrorism because of these threats.”

Al-Khathlan called on the Pakistani government to protect the life and property of Saudi nationals. “I was really surprised to hear the news of the killing of a Saudi official in that country because Riyadh and Islamabad have had strong ties and cordial relations,” said the rights activist.

The killing could be “an attempt to sabotage” our growing relations, he added.

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