SUKKUR - Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Sindh General Secretary Dr Khalid Mehmood Soomro was shot dead early Saturday morning in Sukkur.

Dr Khalid Mehmood Soomro was offering Fajr prayers in the mosque adjacent to his Madrassa Haqqania in Gulshan-e-Iqbal area when he was targeted by unknown gunmen.

JUI-F Amir Maulana Fazlur Rehman told media that Soomro was the victim of a terrorist attack. “The government should order immediate action to arrest the attackers,” Fazl said.

Soomro is survived by his wife, six sons and three daughters. He hailed from Larkana district of Sindh. He was a key leader of JUI-F. Soomro, who was also a senator and represented his party in the Senate from 2006-2012, was attacked at least six times prior to Saturday’s fatal attack.

Police said two or three armed men opened point-blank fire on Soomro who was going to take part in a conference.

After receiving bullet injuries, Dr Soomro was being rushed to a private hospital of Sukkur, but he succumbed to his injuries on the way.

On receiving news of the killing of Dr Khalid Mehmood Soomro, JUI workers come out and held protest demonstrations, sit-ins and blocked the national highway in different towns to protest his killing.

All markets and bazaars aswell as  shopping and trade centres in almost all the cities of upper and interior Sindh, including Sukkur, Ghotki, Shikarpur, Khairpur, Jacobabad and other big and small towns were shut down to mourn his death.

Strict security measures were adopted to tackle any untoward situation and heavy police contingents were deployed at sensitive places.

The body of Dr Khalid Mehmood Soomro was shifted to his native town, Larkana, for funeral prayers and burial while a large number of people, including JUI-F workers and leaders from different owns, arrived in Larkana to attend his funeral prayers.

Sukkur SSP Tanveer Tunio said, according to eyewitnesses, there were four unidentified attackers in a white-colour corolla car. Of them three entered the mosque, adjacent of Madrassa Haqqania where Dr Soomro was offering Fajr prayers, and opened fire. He further said empty bullet casings of TT pistol and 11 of submachine gun were found from the area, adding the incident took place at 6:20am.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah took notice of the killing of JUI Sindh General Secretary Dr Khalid Mehmood Soomro and constituted a four-member inquiry committee, headed by DIG Sukkur Sain Rakhio Mirani with SSPs of Sukkur, Shikarpur and Khairpur as three members and directed them to submit an inquiry report immediately.

Meanwhile, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam–Fazl (JUI-F) announced a countrywide strike on Sunday. He also directed the JUI-F to jam all the main roads across the country.

Replying to a question, the JUI-F chief said how he could give a time frame to the ‘helpless’ government for the arrest of the killers. “We have lost our bold leader,” he commented on the killing of Soomro.

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman who has also escaped two fatal attacks in recent times said the party would observe a countrywide strike on Sunday (today) to protest the killing and termed it an act of terrorism.

According to police sources, three unidentified men entered in Gulshan Iqbal Society in Sukkur area and opened fire at Soomro, using pistols and Kalashnikovs when he came out of his madrassa after offering Fajr prayers. It is not known whether he had been receiving threats or if he had any enmity to any persons. He came to Sukkur on Friday to attend a peace conference.

Despite the presence of security guards outside the madrassa, the assailants managed to enter the mosque, using its back gate.

Hundreds of JUI-F workers reached Sukkur to reach Larkana along his body, raising slogans against the Sindh government. After the tragic incident, tension gripped different parts of Sindh, leading to closure of schools, petrol pumps and markets.

Apart from the attacks on Soomro and the party chief, other JUI-F leaders have also been attacked, some of them fatally, during the past few years. In September this year, a senior JUI-F activist, Maulana Sajidullah, was shot dead in Karachi’s Pirabad area.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took notice of the attack and expressed his grief and sorrow. He phoned Maulana Fazlur Rehman and offered his condolences. National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi strongly condemned the assassination of the JUI Sindh secretary general and former senator, Dr Khalid Mehmood Soomro. They termed it an act of terrorism and an attempt to disrupt peace in the country.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the incident and said the nation would not be demoralised by the killing of Khalid Soomro. Zardari phoned CM Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah and ordered immediate arrest of the culprits. Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif also condemned the murder of Khalid Soomro and expressed their grief over the incident.