14 bus passengers killed in Balochistan terror attack

Pakistani security forces have been targeting terrorists in Balochistan since 2004. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 April 2019

14 bus passengers killed in Balochistan terror attack

  • Assault is second major attack in southwestern province in less than a week
  • Minorities have been the victims of a string of attacks in Balochistan

KARACHI: Gunmen disguised as Pakistani security officials killed at least 14 people on Thursday after forcing them off buses traveling between Karachi and the coastal town of Gwadar, the government said.

The attack in southwestern Balochistan comes less than a week after a suicide bomb ripped through an outdoor market in the province, killing at least 20 people, half of them from the ethnic Hazaras Shiite minority.

Minorities have been the victims of a string of attacks in Balochistan, many carried out by Taliban and sectarian militants. Baloch separatists have also targeted what are termed “settlers” from other areas of Pakistan, particularly Punjab, the country’s most populous and richest province.

Baloch Raji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella outfit formed by three separatist groups — the Balochistan Liberation Front, Balochistan Liberation Army and Baloch Republican Guards — claimed responsibility for the attack, according to local TV channels and social media posts.

“Those who were targeted carried (identification) cards of the Pakistan navy and coast guard, and were killed after they were identified,” a BRAS statement said.

Haider Ali, provincial home secretary, told the AFP news agency that a naval official and a member of the coast guard were among the dead. The Pakistan army’s military wing could not be reached for comment.

Separatist groups have been waging an insurgency in Balochistan for more than a decade, demanding an end to what they see as the exploitation of their resources by people from other parts of Pakistan. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned Thursday’s attack and said he had “directed the authorities to make every possible effort to identify and to bring the perpetrators of the barbaric act to justice.”

Zahoor Ahmed Buledi, Balochistan’s information minister, said about 50 gunmen wearing uniforms of the paramilitary Frontier Corps stopped at least three buses in the Buzi Top area on the Makran coastal highway.

“They (terrorists) forced passengers to disembark and took aside 16 passengers with addresses of Punjab province on their national identity cards,” Buledi said. “They gunned down 14 and two managed to escape.”

The bodies of the 14 dead have been taken to a navy hospital in Ormara, the minister said, but were yet to be identified.

“Heartless terrorists have crossed all limits of barbarity by killing innocent passengers,” said Jam Kamal Khan, Balochistan chief minister.

In May 2015, gunmen wearing security forces uniforms killed at least 22 passengers on buses traveling from the western city of Quetta to Karachi.

Militants and Baloch separatists frequently target civilians and security forces in Balochistan, which is at the center of the $62 billion China-Pakistan economic corridor that Pakistan is building with Chinese loans.

New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

Updated 37 min 38 sec ago

New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

  • The election of Lori Lightfoot as mayor gives Chicago’s Arabs an opportunity to reverse the damage that Rahm Emanuel has caused
  • Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained against

Plagued by ongoing controversies and criticism that he tried to hide a video of Chicago police killing a black teenager in October 2014, Rahm Emanuel decided he had had enough as the city’s mayor and decided to retire.

Elected in 2011 with a big boost from his former boss, US President Barack Obama — also a Chicago native — Emanuel served two full terms.

But his hopes of reversing the city’s tumbling finances, improving its poorly performing schools, and reversing record gun-related violence and killings, all failed.

However, Emanuel did have one success. He managed to gut the involvement of Chicago’s Arab-American minority in city-sponsored events, responding favorably to its influential Jewish-American community leadership, which complained about Palestinian activists who advocated for statehood and challenged Israeli oppression.

Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained included photographs of Palestinians protesting against Israel. The festival had only been launched four years earlier by his predecessor in 2007.

Emanuel also disbanded the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs, and ended Arab American Heritage Month, which had been held every November since it was recognized by Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

Emanuel refused to discuss his reasons for these decisions with leaders of Chicago’s Arab community.

He declined repeated requests by me to interview him, despite my having interviewed seven Chicago mayors. He declined similar requests from other Arab journalists.

While he hosted iftars for Muslims, he never hosted an Arab heritage celebration during his eight years in office.

His father was a leader of the Irgun, which was denounced as a terrorist organization in the 1940s by the British military.

The Irgun murdered British soldiers and thousands of Palestinian civilians, and orchestrated the bloody Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948.

Before becoming mayor, Emanuel volunteered at an Israeli military base repairing damaged vehicles. His pro-Israel stance was never challenged by the mainstream US news media.

But with the election in February of Lori Lightfoot as mayor, Chicago’s Arabs have an opportunity to reverse the damage that Emanuel caused.

Lightfoot was sworn into office on Monday and serves for four years. She has already reached out to Arabs, appointing at least two Palestinians to her 400-person transition team, whose members often remain and assume government positions with new administrations.

The two Palestinians in her transition team are Rush Darwish and Rami Nashashibi. Darwish has organized several successful marathons in Chicago and Bethlehem to raise funds for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Nashashibi is involved with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

As an African American, Lightfoot knows what it is like to be the victim of racism, stereotypes and discrimination. That makes her more sensitive to the concerns of Chicago’s Arabs.