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One of Pakistan’s most famous singers, Amjad Sabri, has been shot dead in the southern city of Karachi.

Two gunmen fired on his car in the busy Liaqatabad area, police said. Sabri died on his way to hospital. It is not yet clear who was behind the killing.
Sabri was a leading exponent of Sufi devotional music, known as Qawwali.

Sufism, a tolerant, mystical practice of Islam, has millions of followers in Pakistan – but in recent years has come under attack from Sunni extremists.

In the past, attacks on targets linked to Sufi Islam have been blamed on the Taliban who view Sufism as heretical. But no such attacks have taken place during the last couple of years, the BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad reports.

Sabri, who was among the sub-continent’s top Qawwali singers, was hit by five bullets, police said. Another person, thought to be a relative, was wounded in the shooting and is said to be in a critical condition.

“It was a targeted killing and an act of terrorism,” said senior police officer Muqaddas Haider, AFP news agency reports.

There have been the usual calls to identify and arrest the killers, but also voices of despair over the continued failure to end militancy in Pakistan.

Karachi has been under a military operation for more than three years, but the gunmen have shown they can still hit their targets at will.

Amjad Sabri came from a family which traces its musical links to the 17th Century court of India’s Mughal empire. The family adheres to the Sabiriyah branch of Sufi Islam, hence the name Sabri. It migrated to Pakistan when India was divided in 1947, and has been based since then in Karachi.

The band led by Amjad’s father, Ghulam Farid Sabri, dominated the Qawwali scene in India and Pakistan during the 1970s and 80s. Amjad himself was considered a great performer who produced both traditional and commercial music and also sang for movie soundtracks in India and Pakistan.

It is not yet clear who killed him, but he apparently presented a soft target with a wider shock value.

A blasphemy case was filed against Amjad Sabri last year after he mentioned members of the Prophet Muhammad’s family in a song.

However, there is still no confirmation the shooting is related to that incident.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and said the singer would be immensely missed.