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Investigators hunt for clues to Sabeen Mahmud’s murder

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Pakistani investigators have found no match for casings of bullets that killed a prominent human rights activist, dashing hopes for quick answers to a murder that has raised fears for the safety of dissenting voices.

Gunmen on a motorcycle attacked activist Sabeen Mahmud late last Friday in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi, as she was leaving her cafe, where she held art exhibitions and talks.

She had just hosted a discussion on disappearances in Baluchistan.

Investigators recovered bullet casings from the scene but drew a blank.

“That suggests that a new group or new weapon has been used in the killing,” a law enforcement official involved in the case, who declined to be identified because the topic is sensitive, said late on Monday.

Police say their only witness is Mahmud’s mother, who was with her and was wounded. Investigators suspect the killers had a back-up team of two men on a motorcycle and police are poring over CCTV footage.

Investigators desperate for clues are monitoring social media in hopes that loose talk could provide a lead, said another senior law enforcement official.

Authorities had earlier blocked the talk, titled “Unsilencing Baluchistan”, when it was scheduled at a different venue.

“THIRD PARTY”

For many Pakistanis, the separatists in Baluchistan, the country’s poorest and most thinly populated province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, pose a more alarming threat than militants.

Pakistan says the rebels get help from neighbour and arch-rival India, but India denies this.

Security concerns in the province took on added urgency days before Mahmud was killed, when China’s President Xi Jinping unveiled projects worth up to $46 billion for an economic corridor anchored there.

The army has vowed to crush the insurgency.

The first law enforcement official said Mahmud’s killers might have taken advantage of the tension between the authorities and Mahmud over her Baluchistan activism.

“Our hunch is that some third party exploited the standoff,” he said, suggesting India.

Pakistanis invariably see the hand of India’s spy agency behind inexplicable violence.– Reuters .

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