Amjad Sabri, Noted Sufi Singer, Is Gunned Down in Karachi

KARACHI — Thousands of mourners crowded the funeral procession of a beloved Pakistani singer on Thursday, a day after he was gunned down in an attack claimed by a faction of the Pakistani Taliban.

Amjad Sabri, 45, was one of South Asia's most popular singers of the "qawwali," Sufi devotional music that dates back more than 700 years.

Image: Amjad Sabri
Amjad Sabri in Oct. 2015. UMAIR RAO / AFP - Getty Images

Devotees thronged the ambulance carrying Sabri's body to the funeral, blocking its progress.

Sabri's death was the latest in a high-profile series of attacks in Karachi, a megacity of 20 million plagued by political, ethnic and sectarian violence.

Karachi's murder rate has fallen sharply since 2013 after a crackdown by paramilitary Rangers, but new fears were stoked Monday after the kidnapping of the son of Sindh High Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.

Two days later, gunmen on a motorcycle shot at the windshield of Sabri's moving car in the congested Liaquatabad area. A relative traveling with him was also wounded.

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A spokesman for a branch of the Pakistani Taliban, Qari Saifullah Saif, claimed the killing late on Wednesday, saying it was in retaliation for a song that the hard-line group considers blasphemous.

In 2014, Sabri was caught up in a blasphemy case involving a Sufi song he had sung on a morning television show that mentioned religious figures in a way some deemed offensive.

Image: Amjad Sabri tributes
Oil lamps are lit in tribute to slain Sufi musician Amjad Sabri in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Wednesday. AAMIR QURESHI / AFP - Getty Images