Gunmen killed at least 14 people after forcing them to disembark from buses in Balochistan, officials said on Thursday, in the latest attack claimed by separatists in the restive province.
The attackers, who numbered around two-dozen, were wearing uniforms of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, said provincial home secretary Haider Ali. They “stopped buses on the Makran Coastal Highway and gunned down 14 people,” he said, adding that the four vehicles were traveling to Karachi from the coastal town of Ormara.
The gunmen identified non-Baloch passengers by their identity cards and shot them, he said. A naval official and a coast guard member were among those killed, Ali said. All the victims are believed to be Pakistani.
The attack was claimed by a Baloch separatist group. A militant spokesman denied that any civilian passengers had been killed and said the group had only targeted coast guard and navy service members.
Provincial home minister Mir Zia Langov told AFP a full-scale investigation had been launched into the attack and to track down the gunmen who, he said, had fled the scene. “Such incidents are intolerable and we will not spare the terrorists who carried out this dastardly attack,” he said.
Prime Minster Imran Khan also condemned the killings in a statement from his office.
Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, as well as the site of Islamist, sectarian and separatist insurgencies. The Islamic State group is also active in the province, and claimed last week’s attack targeting ethnic Shia Hazaras at a fruit market in Quetta.
The Pakistani military has been targeting insurgencies in the province since 2004, and has been repeatedly accused by international rights groups of abuses there. It denies the allegations.
Balochistan is also the site of the flagship project of the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The massive infrastructure project seeks to connect the western Chinese province of Xinjiang with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan. But it has also drawn its share of attacks, particularly by Baloch separatists who have long complained that residents of the province do not receive a fair share of profits from the project.