The Shia community in Balochistan came under intense attack on Tuesday when 29 people were killed in two separate, targeted incidents claimed by banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
At least 26 people were killed and six others injured in Ganjidori area of Mastung, about 30 kilometres southeast of Quetta, when a group of armed men attacked a passenger bus carrying Shia pilgrims from Quetta to Iran.
Hours later, three more people, hailing from the Hazara community, were gunned down near Akhtarabad area of Quetta as their rescue team made its way to the site of the bus attack. Two others were also shot.
Balochistan Home Secretary Naseebullah Bazai called the bus attack an incident of sectarian violence but said that there had been no security lapse. “We usually provide security cover to pilgrims as they are vulnerable to target killings but we had no prior information on this journey,” he said.
Passenger bus attack
Forty-five passengers were on board the bus, most of them Shia, which was on its way to the town of Taftan that borders Iran, according to Mastung Assistant Commissioner Shahnawaz Nosherwani. He also confirmed the casualties and injuries.
“The bus was intercepted and attacked using sophisticated weapons and rocket launchers,” said driver Khushal Khan, who escaped the attack unhurt. “The attackers asked passengers to step out of the bus and shot them after identifying them as Shias. They continued firing for about 10 minutes and managed to escape in their two vehicles.”
Five others who managed to escape the attack were taken to hospital in Mastung and provided security. “As firing began, people started running like headless chickens,” Rajab Ali, a survivor, told The Express Tribune, at the District Headquarters Hospital in Quetta. “One of the assailants was filming the incident.”
Bodies and the injured lay on the crime scene for over an hour, after which people started a rescue operation on their own.
Balochistan Levies, police and rescue workers reached the spot an hour later and cordoned off the highway where the bus was attacked. The bodies and injured were taken to Bolan Medical Complex (BMC) and DHQ Hospital, Quetta. Those critically injured were sent to Combined Military Hospital (CMH).
Bodies were handed over to heirs after autopsies. Victims were shot in the head, chest and abdomen, doctors said.
Rescue team attack
A senior police official said that the victims were travelling in a private car when the attackers, riding a motorcycle, opened fire at them. The bodies and injured were taken to BMC.
People from the Shia community gathered outside the BMC and staged a protest. A three-day mourning has also been announced.
This is the second major attack this month targeting the Shia community in Balochistan. At least 12 people, including women and children, were killed in a suicide attack at an Eid congregation on the first day of Eidul Fitr.
According to official sources, as many as 230 people from the Shia community have been killed since 2007 in sectarian targeted killings in Balochistan. Even police officials who have chased sectarian militants have been targeted.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2011.