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.


France launches crackdown on foreign imams

Updated 20 February 2020

France launches crackdown on foreign imams

  • French president says: New laws will counter ‘foreign interference’

ANKARA: French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday that he will restrict other countries from sending imams and Islamic teachers to France in what he said is an attempt to counter “foreign interference.”

A new law is also being prepared to ensure transparency over how mosques are financed, the French leader said.

The moves are part of a longstanding campaign to have more say over imams and Islamic teachers sent to France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim community.

Macron highlighted the risk of “separatism” and “foreign interference” in the way Islam is practiced in the country.

He said the French Muslim Council (CFCM) has been instructed to focus on training imams on French territory, and ensuring they speak French and do not spread radical views.

France will receive its last intake of imams in 2020.

Macron said France will establish bilateral agreements with other countries to allow French authorities to have control over school courses and their content starting in September.

France currently has agreements with nine countries whereby their governments can send teachers to French schools to teach students originally from these countries on culture and language, without any supervision from French authorities.

From September, France is not expected to provide classes in other languages by using curricula of other countries, including Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia.

The move is designed to halt the rising number of teachers who are unable to speak French and are disconnected from the national education system.

“From September, the teaching of culture, and in foreign languages, will be removed from everywhere on Republic soil,” Macron said.

Turkey is the only country with which France has yet to reach an agreement on the issue.

“Turkey today can make the choice to follow that path with us or not, but I won’t let any foreign country feed a cultural, religious or identity-related separatism on our Republic’s ground. We cannot have Turkey’s laws on France’s ground. No way,” Macron said.

HIGHLIGHT

The moves are part of a longstanding campaign to have more say over imams and Islamic teachers sent to France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim community.

Ahmet Erdi Ozturk, assistant professor at London Metropolitan University, said Turkey’s educational and religious activities abroad have provided Ankara with a perfect tool to control and monitor the diaspora.

“It is part of Turkey’s longstanding ambition and extra-territorial policy to be a leader in the Muslim world. Mosques and educational institutions have become a political tool and a propaganda method in Ankara’s hands,” he told Arab News.

According to Ozturk, Turkey’s illiberal regime is strengthening its grip on Islamic preaching abroad.

“Following the failed coup attempt in 2016, the ruling Justice and Development Party, and especially President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, emphasized establishing political and religious domination over diaspora Muslims in their struggle against the religiously motivated movement of Fethullah Gulen, believed to be the mastermind behind the coup attempt,” he said.

Mosques abroad have cooperated with the Turkish intelligence agency, sparking fears over “imams spying on their followers,” he said.

“Now Turkey is accused of exporting domestic politics via religious apparatus,” Ozturk said.

France has around 300 imams from abroad, working across 2,500 places of worship around the country. About 150 imams are sent from Turkey, 120 from Algeria and 30 from Morocco.

Ankara has not responded to Macron’s announcement.