Four armed gunmen stormed the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) around 10 am local time on Monday, with security forces foiling their attempted raid. All four militants, four security guards of the stock exchange building, one police official, and at least on civilian have been reported as killed in the attempted attack. Seven others, including three police sub-inspector, have been injured and moved to Karachi’s Civil Hospital.

The gunmen initiated their attack by throwing multiple hand grenades inside the PSX compound. Security officials confirm that the attackers entered the compound through the parking area, with two of the militants entering the main gate as well before crossfire was initiated by the security officials.

The attack has been claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), with the group taking responsibility on social media. Sindh Rangers Director General Umer Ahmed Bukhari alluded to the BLA statement on social media, and suggested that the attack could not have taken place without foreign involvement.

“[Indian spy agency] RAW (Research & Analysis) has been frustrated recently, which can be seen in this latest attack,” Bukhari said, adding that the counterterror operation was successfully executed in “eight minutes”. Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon also lauded the security forces for thwarting the militant bid.

Parallels have also been drawn with the November 2018 attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi, which had been foiled by security agencies as well. That attack was claimed by the BLA as well.

The Rangers and Police officials forestalled the attackers’ bid to enter the stock exchange building, with the militants killed in the crossfire, which lasted for around 20 minutes. The building was immediately evacuated as stock exchange employees were safely escorted outside.

Immediately after eliminating the militants, the area was cordoned off, and a search operation launched to look for any potential accomplices of the four militants. Heavy arsenal, including multiple machine guns and hand grenades, has been recovered in the clearance operation suggesting that a large-scale attack had been planned.

PSX Managing Director Farrukh Khan credits the security measures at the stock exchange for foiling the attempted raid. “Our security guards didn’t let the terrorists enter the building and then the Rangers and Police arrived swiftly as well. Thankfully, the situation remained under control [as a result],” he said.

As Pakistan’s principal stock exchange, the PSX building has multi-layered security in place, with many scanners and numerous security guards. A PSX official confirmed that security agencies had already conveyed a potential security risk, which meant that the stock exchange building was on high alert.

Due to the covid-19 pandemic, the number of employees was limited in the building, with the stock exchange’s board meeting on Zoom planned for today.

“The officials from Rangers are on the second gate, and the local police on the front gate, are on duty here 24/7.  The rapid action platoon is on duty 24/7 as well. That’s why the response was better, and we’ve all collectively saved the building,” said Karachi’s Deputy Inspector General Police South Sharjeel Kharal.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah have condemned the attempted raid. CM Murad Ali Shah dubbed the raid as an “attack on national security and economy” and accused the perpetrators of “taking advantage” of the covid-19 situation. Shah lauded the security agencies swift response.

The building and the surrounding area has been cleared by the security forces. Trading at the stock exchange has continued as normal.