Shooting caught on tape in Pakistan sparks probe

June 9, 2011 - 8:27 AM
Pakistan Karachi Shooting

Family members of the allegedly executed boy mourn his death in Karachi, Pakistan on Thursday, June 9, 2011. Pakistani authorities are investigating a video that appears to show paramilitary forces shooting to death an unarmed teenage boy in the southern port city of Karachi, officials said Thursday. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani authorities are investigating a video that appeared to show paramilitary forces shooting to death an unarmed teenager in the southern port city of Karachi, officials said Thursday as hundreds of angry mourners attended his funeral.

Video aired repeatedly on TV and a version posted online showed the bleeding teen begging for help. It sparked another controversy for the Pakistani military, which is still reeling from criticism following the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden last month.

Pakistani security forces are often accused of using excessive force and abusing ordinary citizens.

A spokesman for the paramilitary Rangers said its forces detained of 18-year-old Afsar Shah because he was attempting to rob people in a park in Karachi on Wednesday. He said a gun was recovered from Shah and he was shot because he was reaching for a Ranger's rifle. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Shah pulled the gun on two women before a security guard nabbed him and handed him to the Rangers. He said two Rangers have been detained and an inquiry has been ordered into the shooting.

Video of the incident aired by local Awaz TV and obtained by The Associated Press seemed to contradict the allegation that Shah posed a threat to the Rangers.

It showed a man in civilian clothes wrestling what appeared to be a gun out of Shah's hand and kicking him toward a group of Rangers. Shah said it was just a toy gun as he pleaded with a Ranger who pointed his rifle at his neck.

"I am helpless," he said to the Rangers.

The men surrounded Shah and pointed their guns at him. He moved toward one Ranger with his arms outstretched, saying "No, no, don't kill me brother." He was pushed back and shot twice in the hand and leg.

Shah fell to the ground screaming and begged the Rangers to take him to a hospital, a longer version of the video posted on YouTube showed. They stood by as he writhed in an expanding pool of his own blood.

Shah was eventually taken to a local hospital but died shortly thereafter from "profuse bleeding," said Seemi Jamali, director at the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical College.

Hundreds of people showed up at Shah's funeral Thursday and denounced the Rangers. Some shouted "Rangers, murderers!" and others carried signs that said "Down with the Karachi Rangers."

A TV channel showed a woman identified as Shah's sister who shouted, "We need our brother or we need justice!"

Malik, the interior minister, said that although Shah was "a criminal," the government would "investigate whatever illegal act was committed against him."

Shah's brother, Salik, a local crime reporter, denied Afsar Shah was a robber and accused the Rangers of shooting an innocent person.

"It seems to be a case of routine high-handedness of the Rangers," Salik Shah said. "They misuse their powers by shooting on sight."

Last month, security forces shot and killed a family of five Chechens — a husband, his pregnant wife and their three children — at a checkpoint near the southwestern city of Quetta. Officials initially claimed the five were suicide bombers, but they turned out to be unarmed and video of the shooting further undercut the government's claim. The government has since launched an inquiry into the shootings.

The military is trying to restore its image after the American raid that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, an army town only about 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Critics have blamed the military for failing to stop the raid and for not knowing that bin Laden was hiding in their midst.