The police are often used on the frontline of Pakistan’s battle with the Taliban and are frequently a target of militants who accuse them of extra-judicial killings.
Last month, more than 80 officers were killed when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest at a mosque inside a police compound in the northwestern city of Peshawar, sparking criticism from some junior ranks, who said they were having to do the army’s work.
“The policemen should stay away from our war with the slave army, otherwise the attacks on the safe havens of the top police officers will continue,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said on Saturday in an English-language statement.
“We want to warn the security agencies once again to stop martyring innocent prisoners in fake encounters otherwise the intensity of future attacks will be more severe.”
On Friday evening, a Taliban suicide squad stormed the sprawling Karachi Police Office compound in the southern port city, prompting an hours-long gun battle that ended when two of the attackers were shot dead and a third blew himself up.
Two police officers, an army ranger and a civilian sanitary worker died in the attack, officials said.
The tightly guarded compound in the heart of the city is home to dozens of administrative and residential buildings as well as hundreds of officers and their families.
A senior investigator told AFP early findings indicate all three attackers were from northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the TTP’s power base and site of the Peshawar blast less than three weeks ago.
“They entered into the police headquarters compound through the rear entrance which is used by the residents of the police colony,” the investigator said on condition of anonymity.
Interior minister Rana Sanaullah told Samaa TV the assailants entered the compound after firing a rocket at the gate before seizing the main Karachi Police Office building and taking refuge on the roof.
The sound of gunfire and grenade blasts echoed through the neighbourhood for hours as security forces slowly made their way up five floors to end the siege.
The bullet-riddled stairwells gave evidence of the fierce gun battle that unfolded.
The TTP, which is separate from the Afghan Taliban but with a similar hardline Islamist ideology, emerged in Pakistan in 2007 and carried out a horrific wave of violence that was largely crushed by a military operation launched in late 2014.
But attacks — mostly targeting security forces — have been on the rise again since the Afghan Taliban seized control of Kabul in August 2021 and a shaky months-long ceasefire between the TTP and Islamabad ended in November last year.
“Eliminating terrorist outfits has unfortunately not been a priority of the state,” political analyst Tauseef Ahmed Khan told AFP.
“Such attacks will keep reoccurring until the state meaningfully and completely transforms its policy towards militancy and terrorism.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has vowed to stamp out the violence.
“Pakistan will not only uproot terrorism but will kill the terrorists by bringing them to justice,” he tweeted late Friday.
“This great nation is determined to end this evil forever.”
Condemning the attack, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States stands “firmly with the Pakistani people in the face of this terrorist attack”.
“Violence is not the answer, and it must stop.”
Investigators blamed an affiliate of the Pakistan Taliban for the January blast at the Peshawar police compound.
Provinces around the country announced they were on high alert after that attack, with checkpoints ramped up and extra security forces deployed.
“There’s a general threat across the country, but there was no specific threat to this place,” Interior Minister Sanaullah said of Friday’s Karachi attack.
In their statement, the Taliban called the raid “a blessed martyrdom” and warned of more to come.
“This attack is a message to all the anti-Islamic security agencies of Pakistan… the army and police will be targeted at every important place until the way for implementation of the Islamic system in the country is paved,” it said.