Pakistan: 11 killed in suspected separatist raid

World Saturday 13/April/2024 15:24 PM
By: DW
Pakistan: 11 killed in suspected separatist raid

At least 11 people have been killed in southwest Pakistan, officials said on Saturday, in what is suspected to be an attack by ethnic separatist militants after migrant laborers were singled out.

Newly appointed Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called the attack an "incident of terrorism" and said "facilitators will be punished".

"The perpetrators of this incident of terrorism and their facilitators will be severely punished,” he said in a statement. "Will root out the monster of terrorism.

Six gunmen stopped a bus near the city of Naushki in Balochistan province around 8 p.m. local time (1500 GMT) on Friday to check people's ID cards. They went on to abduct nine workers who belonged to the eastern region of Punjab.

The bodies of nine migrant workers were later found two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the highway. They were all shot and killed "at point-blank range,” senior local police officer Allah Bakhsh said.

The same attackers later fired at a car belonging to a provincial lawmaker. While the parliamentarian was not in the vehicle, two others were killed as the car careened into a ditch, officer Bakhsh said.

According to him, the gunmen "clearly used the modus operandi of Baloch separatists" and "an investigation has been launched to confirm who was behind the attacks".

"Police and paramilitary forces started combing the area for the arrest of the attackers," according to senior Naushki district administration official Habibullah Musakhail, also confirming the death toll.

"But the attackers have managed to flee the area this time," he said.

Ethnic Baloch insurgents have previously claimed responsibility for similar killings in the region. However, no one has claimed responsibility for Friday's attack so far.

Ethnic separatists have waged a decades-long insurgency in Balochistan — Pakistan's largest but poorest province — despite an abundance of natural resources.

The region is also home to Pakistan's deep-water Gwadar sea port which is being developed by neighboring China, as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

In the past, militants have targeted ethnic Punjabis and Sindhis from elsewhere in Pakistan, as well as foreign energy firms they believe are exploiting the region without sharing its riches.

Just last month, eight Baloch militants were killed as they attempted to storm the offices of the port which is considered a cornerstone of China's investment in the region.