As the Quetta police and Frontier Constabulary faced increased criticism for killing five unarmed Chechens on Tuesday, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Police officials had earlier claimed to have killed five “terrorists” on Tuesday who were alleged to be wearing suicide jackets and carrying weapons and about to attack a check post in Quetta. The deceased included three women.
Even on the first day, The Express Tribune reported that some witnesses disputed the claim that the five Chechens were armed. Police officials admitted on Wednesday that the five people killed by them were in fact unarmed and
that none were wearing an explosive vest.
Raisani has ordered Balochistan Chief Secretary Ahmed Bakhsh Lehri to supervise the investigation into the incident and report back to him within ten days. Lehri has been directed to name the officials who were responsible for the incident.
Meanwhile, the Russian government has sought access from the Balochistan government to the passports of the people killed in Quetta in order to identify them and notify their families, according to one senior official familiar with the matter. Chechnya is an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation and most ethnic Chechens are legally Russian citizens.
The government is also conducting a post-mortem examination of the bodies to determine the cause of death.
“The bodies are kept in the morgue of Bolan Medical College Teaching Hospital and doctors will carry out a post-mortem examination of the bodies on Friday [today] enabling them to determine their causes of death,” a doctor told The Express Tribune.
At least two variations of the story have emerged. According to Abdur Rehman, the man who drove the vehicle the five foreign nationals were in, said that his vehicle had been booked for a journery from Khuchlak to Ghousabad by two Pashto-speaking men who appeared to be Afghan nationals.
The five Chechens then joined them aboard his van but asked him to avoid a police checkpoint on Airport Road in Quetta. However, they encountered another checkpoint in Khuchlak and, during a search of the vehicle, police found some powder and a grenade.
“One of the foreigners showed a grenade to the police and threatened to explode it,” said Rehman. “As they showed the grenade I stopped the van and fled from the scene. The local also left the van. I heard gunshots and an explosion.”
Police have released two sketches of the men who booked the van with the driver, who is also a school teacher.
Meanwhile, police officials told a news conference that the Chechens had illegally entered Pakistan and were planning a terrorist attack.
“They exploded the hand grenade which resulted in their injuries. The suspicious powder found from the foreigners was tested in labs and was likely meant for use in explosives,” said Capital City Police Officer Dawood Junejo. He added that eight passports were recovered from the dead bodies and two of them were expired.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2011.