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.