QUETTA: At least five men, three of them belonging to the Hazara community, were killed in an armed attack on a van carrying them to a vegetable market in the early hours of Monday.
Two men on a motorbike opened fire on the van that transported Hazara vegetable vendors to the market, killing the driver and four others, near Allah Dana Street on Kasi Road.
“We have put in place a system to take Hazara vegetable vendors to the market under security arrangements and directed them to use the secure route,” Quetta DIG Abdul Razaq Cheema told reporters at the crime scene. “The men killed on Monday were using a separate route where no security was deployed for them,” he said.
The attackers escaped before personnel of law enforcement agencies and rescue workers reached the spot and cordoned off the area.
The bodies and a man who suffered bullet injuries in his neck were taken to the Quetta Civil Hospital.
Police found 19 casings of 9mm bullets at the spot. “We have commenced our investigations following the targeted killing of Hazaras and a search will be conducted in the adjoining areas,” Cheema added.
Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri condemned the attack and asked the provincial police chief to submit a report on the sectarian killing.
Later, relatives of the Hazara victims and other members of the community held a protest sit-in along with their bodies at Shuhda Chowk on Alamdar Road.
“There had been a pause in sectarian attacks in Quetta city and we believe that today’s incident occurred due to the administration’s negligence,” said Abdul Qayoum Changezi, the chief of the Hazara Qoumi Jirga.
“We were told that the Hazaras would be escorted towards vegetable markets but today there was no security,” he said, adding that his group would share its concerns with security officials.
Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti visited Alamdar Road to express solidarity with the victims and the protesters dispersed and buried the bodies after receiving assurances from him.
Addressing the protesters, Bugti said the provincial government had a clear stance on the issue and many terrorists involved in killing innocent Hazaras had been eliminated. “I want to assure you that the provincial government will fight against all terrorists till we purge them from our peaceful soil,” the minister said.