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.

No-deal Brexit looms as race for new British PM wraps up

Updated 17 July 2019

No-deal Brexit looms as race for new British PM wraps up

  • Many lawmakers, business community fear dire economic outcome
  • A majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons are opposed to a no-deal Brexit

LONDON: The battle to become Britain's next prime minister enters the home straight on Wednesday with both candidates hardening their positions on Brexit, putting the future government on a collision course with Brussels.
Ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson, the favourite to replace Theresa May, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, are now both referring to Britain's departure with no overall deal in place as a realistic prospect.
The business community and many lawmakers fear dire economic consequences from a no-deal Brexit, which would lead to immediate trade tariffs for some sectors including the automotive industry.
Johnson and Hunt are taking part in a final question-and-answer session later on Wednesday before the result of the vote by Conservative Party members is announced next Tuesday.
The new party leader will be confirmed as prime minister by Queen Elizabeth II on the following day.
Britain has twice delayed its scheduled departure from the European Union after 46 years of membership as May tried and failed to get her deal with Brussels through parliament.
The two candidates vying to replace her have vowed to scrap a "backstop" provision in the agreement that Brussels insisted upon to keep the Irish border open.
Their latest attacks on the measure during a debate on Monday prompted a plunge in the value of the British pound.
The currency fell again Wednesday to its lowest level against the US dollar in over two years.
"The tougher stance from both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt in terms of their rhetoric on Brexit is clearly weighing on the pound," said market analyst Neil Wilson.
"Make no mistake, this decline in the pound is down to traders pricing in a higher chance of a no-deal exit."
The backstop has proved a key stumbling block in the Brexit process.
The measure would keep open the post-Brexit border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member the Republic of Ireland whatever the outcome of negotiations over the future relationship between London and Brussels.
Johnson announced early in his campaign that he would not sign up to it and would pursue a no-deal Brexit if required, leading his opponent to follow suit.
However, European leaders have been adamant that the backstop must remain a part of any divorce deal, raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who will become European Commission president in November, said the draft withdrawal agreement provided "certainty".
She also broached a possible further delay to Britain's departure, saying: "I stand ready for a further extension of the withdrawal date, should more time be required for a good reason."
Johnson has pledged that under his leadership, Britain will leave "do or die" on the current deadline of October 31.
A majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, but attempts to pass legislation blocking the scenario have failed.
Reports this week suggested Johnson is considering plans to end the current session of parliament in early October, leaving MPs powerless.
Finance Minister Philip Hammond said Wednesday it was "terrifying" that some Brexit supporters thought that no deal would leave Britain better off.
And in a speech in London, May said the "best route" for Britain was to leave with a deal.
Delivering her last major address, she railed against the trend towards "absolutism" in Britain and abroad, and urged her successor to compromise.
"Whatever path we take must be sustainable for the long term, so that delivering Brexit brings our country back together. That has to mean some kind of compromise," she said.