Four gunmen attacked the Pakistani Karachi stock exchange, killing two guards and a police officer, and injuring seven others before being killed.
The attackers launched a grenade attack at the main entrance to the building and opened fire, but police said they had failed to get to the prosecution.
The staff inside took refuge in locked rooms and many were evacuated. Security forces search the area.
Activists of the Baluchi Liberation Army say they were behind the attack.
Baloch ethnic groups have fought a long-standing insurgency for a separate homeland and a larger share of resources in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
Pakistan has suffered years of militant violence, mostly from Islamist groups, but attacks like this have become rare in recent years.
“They opened fire on everyone”
Monday’s attack began when militants armed with automatic rifles threw a grenade and then started shooting at a security post outside the stock exchange.
“The attackers came to a silver Corolla and were arrested by the police at the outer door where the firefight took place,” Sindh police inspector general Ghulam Nabi Memon told BBC Urdu. .
The guards retaliated, killing the four heavily armed attackers, officials said. Three police officers are among the seven injured treated at the hospital.
Memon said the attackers failed to enter the main building and that grenades, explosives and other weapons were recovered. The Pakistan Stock Exchange has confirmed that no activists have entered the building.
Its director, Abid Ali Habib, said that the gunmen escaped from the parking lot and “opened fire on everyone”.
Images of the scene show the bodies of at least two men on the ground next to large quantities of ammunition and weapons. It was not immediately clear whether more attackers were involved, which prompted the security forces to search the area extensively.
Reports indicate that most of the people in the stock market have managed to escape or hide in locked rooms. Those inside the building were evacuated from the back door, reported Geo TV.
Negotiations continued without interruption.
“We locked ourselves in our offices,” Asad Javed, an employee of a brokerage in the building, told Reuters news agency.
The stock exchange has offices for hundreds of financial institutions and is located in a high-security area with the headquarters of banks and other businesses.
The exchange says there are up to 8,000 people working there on a normal day, but the number was down because of homework during the coronavirus pandemic.
Why are Baloch groups fighting?
The Baluchi Liberation Army (BLA) is part of half a dozen armed resistance groups in Baluchistan and has already launched attacks in Pakistan.
In 2018, its members attempted to storm the Chinese consulate in Karachi, killing at least four people. All staff inside the building were unharmed.
Last year, the BLA attacked a five-star hotel in the port city of Gwadar in Balochistan. The hotel is the centerpiece of a multi-billion dollar Chinese project and has been selected to target Chinese and other investors.
Separatist militants in Balochistan oppose Chinese investment, saying it is of little benefit to the local population.
The BLA originally sought political autonomy from the province, but has gradually turned into a violent armed separatist movement and is listed as a terrorist organization by Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Large-scale abuses and repression by the Pakistani military have been documented over the decades in the province, making it difficult for journalists and human rights groups to access.
Balochistan is a sparsely populated region, and the BLA and other activists have shrines there and in neighboring regions of Pakistan. They are also said to be hiding in southeast Afghanistan.
The province remains the poorest region in Pakistan despite its wealth of gas and coal reserves, as well as copper and gold. Baloch nationalists have long accused the central government of exploitation and deprive the province of its rights.