QUETTA - Unidentified gunmen donning uniforms of paramilitary soldiers Thursday massacred at least 14 passengers, including Pakistan Navy personnel, after forcing them to disembark from buses on a highway in the Balochistan city of Ormara.
Around 15 to 20 gunmen stopped six buses travelling between Karachi and Gwadar. They stopped the buses on the Makran Coastal Highway in Ormara area, checked some three dozen passengers’ identity cards and offloaded 16 people before shooting them dead, police said.
Balochistan Inspector General of Police Mohsin Hassan Butt said around 15 to 20 unidentified gunmen wearing uniforms of paramilitary Frontier Corps were involved in the attack carried out early morning at Buzi Top area. “A total of 16 people were offloaded and 14 killed while two managed to escape,” the officer said.
Balochistan Home Minister Zia Langove told the media that the attackers used their fatigue as a disguise to carry out a routine check on the passengers. “We have launched a probe to identify and arrest the attackers,” he said, adding that the deceased have not been identified.
“One Navy and one coast guard personnel were among those killed,” Langove said.
The Pakistani Navy said its sailors and officers who were travelling to work were also among the slain men but gave no further details. According to intelligence officials, nine employees of the Navy were among the dead, reported an American news agency.
BRAS CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY
The Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an alliance of armed ethnic Baloch groups, meaning brothers in local language, claimed responsibility for the attack in an emailed statement released on Thursday. "Those who were targeted carried [identification] cards of the Pakistan Navy and Coast Guards, and they were only killed after they were identified," said Baloch Khan, a BRAS spokesperson.
"These people have no ideological stance, they just commit injustice and are murderers for hire," said Balochistan information minister in a tweet shortly after the attack.
The travellers were removed from the buses and taken to a second location, where they were shot dead, Balochistan Information Minister Zahoor Buledi told Al Jazeera. "They identified non-Baloch by checking their identity cards and employee cards," said Buledi. "They took them to the nearby mountains and shot them dead after tying their hands."
Muhammad Musa, a local health official who examined the bodies, told Al Jazeera that most had been shot in the head. "They all had bullet injuries," he said. "There were no wounded, all are dead."
Zia Langove confirmed the accounts of the killings and told Al Jazeera "a search operation is ongoing in the area" to find the perpetrators. "We will definitely look at the security precautions on the route, but it is a very long route from Karachi to Gwadar. We have many security posts, but whenever terrorists want to carry out such attacks, they can target [vehicles] in remote locations," he said.
The buses were carrying passengers from Gwadar to Karachi, a distance of roughly 630km.
"This is a very remote place, about 60km from the nearest town in Ormara and 300km from Gwadar," Asif Shawani, a local health official, told Al Jazeera.
Two of the hostages managed to escape in the process and reached the nearest security check post to report the incident, a local security official, Jehangir Dashti, told VOA.
AN ACT OF TERROR
The attack drew nationwide condemnation and Prime Minister Imran Khan called it "an act of terror." He later issued a statement, ordering authorities "to make every possible effort to identify and to bring the perpetrators of the barbaric act to justice."
Prime Minister Imran also sought a report on the incident. “The prime minister has sought a report into the incident,” a PM Office statement said.
The prime minister also expressed his sympathies with the bereaved families of the victims.
Balochistan Governor Amanullah Khan Yasinzai along with Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Jam Kamal Khan condemned the killing of innocent passengers at Markran Coastal Highway.
An ISIS suicide attack targeting Hazaras in Quetta last week killed 21 people and injured 60 others. Armed gunmen kidnapped about two dozen passengers from two Karachi-bound coaches from Mastung area in 2015, killing at least 19 of them in the mountainous area of Khad Kocha.