QUETTA – At least 18 people, including eight women and four children, were killed when gunmen targeted a passenger van which consequently smacked into a petrol pump, triggering a massive inferno in Khuzdar on Friday.
The incident occurred at a bus stop when a group of armed men opened indiscriminate fire on the van standing close to a filling station that resulted into an explosive fire.
Eyewitnesses reported that the passenger van was on way from Khuzdar city to Zehri village when it was attacked. The driver lost control of the van and it crashed into the petrol pump. Consequently, a huge fire broke out, burning 18 people, including women and children alive.
Khuzdar Deputy Commissioner (DC) Abdul Mansoor Kakar said the blaze was so massive that it engulfed the surrounding areas. “I have visited the spot and witnessed six dead bodies which were burnt but the exact number of casualties yet to be ascertained,” he told TheNation.
However, talking to the media, Khuzdar District Police Officer Sabbih Udden said 18 people had been killed and five were scorched in the tragic incident.
He said the dead bodies had been shifted to Khuzdar Civil District Headquarter Hospital and the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) for autopsy. He confirmed that eight women and four children were among the dead.
Eyewitnesses said that only five people could manage to get out from the burning van.
The law enforcement agencies have started investigation into the incident. No militant group has taken the responsibility of the incident.
Agencies add: Abdul Mansoor Kakar told AFP that four gunmen were involved in the attack. A number of stalls selling petrol smuggled from Iran were engulfed in the fire, Kakar said, with stallholders among the dead.
"Four attackers riding motorbikes opened fire on these petrol stalls and ran away after the attack," Kakar told AFP.
Doctor Akbar Harifal, the top administrative official in Khuzdar confirmed the new death toll, which rose sharply from a previous tally of seven.
Eleven of the 18 bodies have been identified, Kakar said, but hospital officials reported that some were burned so badly that recognition was difficult.
Violence has surged this year in Balochistan and human rights activists have raised concerns about an increase in targeted killings in the province. In September Human Rights Watch said more than 100 Shias had been killed in sectarian attacks in Balochistan this year.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has repeatedly voiced concern over law and order in Balochistan in recent months, saying the province was ‘burning’ and demanding to know what action the security services were taking.