KARACHI: Three people were shot dead in the North Karachi area on Friday afternoon in what police suspected to be a sectarian attack. The victims, all from the Shia community, had just offered Friday prayers at the Najaf Imambargah, said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Central Investigation Arab Mahar. “The victims were riding a motorbike and were attacked near Shafiq Morr,” the police official said. Those killed were identified as Hashim, Ali Sajjad and Shamim Rizvi. This is the first major incident of sectarian violence in Karachi in 2016. Although incidents of sectarian violence have decreased over the past year, it remains prevalent as professionals continue to be targeted on the basis of their faith, says Kamran Arif, co-chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). An HRCP report released in April said that 2015 saw 58 incidents of sectarian violence ? nearly half of the incidents, which took place in 2014. Several thousand citizens belonging to religious minority communities are reported to have left the country over the past few years “on account of faith-based violence, discrimination and persecution”. An ‘operation’ against criminal elements in Pakistan’s commercial hub was initiated back in September 2013 after the federal cabinet empowered the Rangers to lead a targeted advance with the support of police against criminals.