Unidentified gunmen donning uniforms of paramilitary soldiers Thursday massacred at least 14 passengers, including Pakistan Navy personnel, after forcing them to disembark from buses on a highway in the restive Balochistan province, in the latest targeted killing in the country.
Around 15 to 20 gunmen stopped five to six buses travelling between Karachi and Gwadar. They stopped the buses on the Makran Coastal Highway in Balochistan’s Ormara area, checked some three dozen passengers’ identity cards and offloaded 16 people before shooting them dead, police said.
Balochistan Inspector General of Police Mohsin Hassan Butt said around 15 to 20 unidentified gunmen wearing uniforms of paramilitary Frontier Corps were involved in the attack carried out early morning at Buzi Top area.
“A total of 16 people were offloaded and 14 killed while 2 managed to escape,” the officer said.
Balochistan Home Minister Zia Langove told the media that the attackers used their fatigue as a disguise to carry out a routine check on the passengers.
“We have launched a probe to identify and arrest the attackers,” he said, adding that the deceased have not been identified.
“One navy and one coast guard personnel were among those killed,” Langove said.
A Pakistan Navy spokesperson said Navy personnel were among those killed in the attack.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has strongly condemned the killings in a statement from his office and sought a report on the incident.
“The prime minister has sought a report into the incident,” a PM Office statement said, according to APP news agency.
“He directed the authorities concerned to make every possible effort to identify and bring the perpetrators of the barbaric act to justice. The prime minister also expressed his sympathies with the bereaved families of the victims,” it said.
President Arif Alvi also condemned the “cowardly terrorist attack”.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal condemned the incident and offered his condolences to the victims’ families.
“These cowardly terrorists showed the extent of their barbarism by murdering innocent passengers,” the chief minister said.
He described the attack as a conspiracy to halt progress in Balochistan and tarnish the country’s image, and assured that “progress will continue no matter what”.
The motive behind the killings is yet to be ascertained and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies.
In the past, minority Shia Muslims and ethnic workers from the Punjab province have been targeted in such attacks.
An ISIS suicide attack targeting Hazara Shias in the provincial capital of Quetta last week killed 21 people and injured 60 others. Armed gunmen kidnapped about two dozen passengers from two Karachi-bound coaches from Balochistan’s Mastung area in 2015, killing at least 19 of them in the mountainous area of Khad Kocha.