When a passenger van came under attack on Friday, the Hazara community became a target once again.
Three people from the community were killed while three others, including a child, sustained injuries when gunmen attacked the van on Sibi Road in Saryab, on the outskirts of Quetta.
The attack came just three days after 26 Shia pilgrims, travelling to Iran from Quetta, were ambushed in the Ganjidori area of Mastung. Banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) had claimed responsibility for that attack.
On Friday, a passenger van was on its way to Mach coal mine field from Quetta when it was stopped by assailants armed with Kalashnikovs, a police official said. The attackers forced passengers off the van and gunned down three Shias after identifying them as Hazaras. Three others, including a child, received bullet wounds.
The attackers managed to make their escape in a get-away car and motorbikes.
The Saryab police and rescue workers reached the spot soon after and shifted the bodies and the injured to the Provincial Sandeman Hospital and Bolan Medical Complex. The victims were coal mine workers and residents of Hazara Town.
“We were going to a coal mine field when we were targeted by the culprits,” a victim’s relative said at the hospital. Scores of people from the Hazara community gathered at the hospital to condemn the attack.
“It was sectarian targeted killings and investigations are under way,” Deputy Inspector General Police (DIG-Investigations) Nazir Kurd said. Security throughout Quetta was put on high alert.
“Armed men stopped the van and asked all the passengers to disembark. They then separated the Hazara people from the others before opening fire. Bullets also hit the van,” Pirzada Khan, one of the injured admitted to Sandeman Hospital, said.
Another injured, Talbin Hussain, was referred to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) due to his critical condition. The child was also stated to be in a critical condition as he received bullets in his abdomen.
Enraged by Friday’s attack, people took to the streets and forced shops and commercial establishments situated on Jinnah Road to shut down.
A heavy contingent of the Frontier Corps and police was deployed at the two hospitals.
Hazara Democratic Party, Tahafuz-e-Hazaradaran Council, Shia Conference and Wahthul Muslimeem have strongly condemned the incident.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2011.