In a grisly execution-style attack on Thursday, twenty passengers were lined up and shot dead by unidentified gunmen after being pulled off two buses in Balochistan’s Mastung district.
Coming from the Pashtun-dominated area of Pishin, the two Karachi-bound buses were intercepted and stopped in Gidrang near Mastung district’s Kadocha area by as many as 40 gunmen around 9:00pm, according to security forces and Balochistan home department officials.
“At least 25 passengers were forced off the buses at gunpoint,” a senior home department official said.
“The gunmen killed at least 19 passengers and wounded one,” Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani told reporters after the grisly incident. The sole injured passenger later died of his wounds.
“None of them [the victims] were settlers or Shia,” Durrani said.
His statement was confirmed later by Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti who said all of the victims were ‘Pashtun’.
Eyewitnesses said the gunmen blocked the RCD Highway at two points near Kadocha. “They stopped buses at first and forced passengers off from the first two, killing their drivers on the spot,” said an eyewitness who was among those stranded at the highway for several hours.
According to some sources, as many as 50 passengers were initially abducted.
Home department officials said it was premature to comment on the motive behind the attack at this stage.
A spokesperson for Frontier Corps Balochistan said a manhunt for the attackers had been launched in Mastung and adjoining areas. “An exchange of fire is already under way in the area,” he said.
The bodies of the deceased were shifted to the Mastung civil hospital, an official of the Kadocha Levies said. Medics at the hospital confirmed they received two bodies and one of the wounded, but said more than 10 of the deceased were moved to another hospital in Mastung.
Home Secretary Durrani, who rushed to the scene of the incident along with the home minister, termed the massacre an act of terrorism. “The attackers kidnapped the passengers before killing them. This was not a sectarian attack or an incident of violence against settlers,” he said. On the other hand, transporters blocked the main RCD Highway in protest against the incident.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but Baluch separatists demanding greater autonomy have been waging an insurgency for years and the province is also riven by sectarian strife and violence.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2015.
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