Gunmen kill at least 11 in two attacks in Pakistan’s Balochistan

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks which took place on the Quetta-Taftan Highway.

Gunmen have killed 11 people in two separate attacks in the Balochistan province in southwestern Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan and Iran, officials have said.

Police on Saturday were searching for the assailants who killed nine people after abducting them from a bus on a highway on Friday. The same attackers also killed two people in another car they forced to stop.

Deputy Commissioner Habibullah Musakhel said the armed men had set up a blockade, then stopped the bus and went through the passengers’ ID cards. They took nine people with them, all from the eastern Punjab province, and fled into the mountains. Police later recovered nine bodies under a bridge about five kilometres (three miles) from the highway.

The attack took place on the Quetta-Taftan Highway N-40 in the vicinity of Sultan Charhai near Noshki, and 10 to 12 armed men were involved, Musakhel also told Pakistan daily, Dawn.

Earlier on Friday, the same gunmen had opened fire on a vehicle that tried to stop for their blockade, killing two and wounding six. A search for the perpetrators was under way, Musakhel said.

Passenger Sajjad Ahmed said there were 70 people on the bus. Masked men stopped the bus near the city of Nushki, took away nine people and told the driver to continue the journey, he told The Associated Press.

“We heard the armed men open fire on those people as we drove away,” he said. “We heard the sounds of firing. The driver took the bus to the closest police station. We didn’t know if those people were alive or not.”

Witness Zahid Imran, 46, told the AFP news agency that when the attackers boarded the bus they berated the abducted travellers, saying, “You Punjabis kill our children, get up and come with us.”

‘Incident of terrorism’

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the attack, expressing his “deep sorrow and regret over this shocking incident”.

He offered his condolences to the families of the victims and said he stood by them in their hour of grief, according to a statement from his office.

“The perpetrators of this incident of terrorism and their facilitators will be punished,” Sharif said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack which occurred about 8:00pm (15:00 GMT) on Friday.

Abductions are rare in Balochistan, where armed groups usually target police forces and soldiers or infrastructure.

Separatist ethnic Baloch groups in the mineral-rich region have been fighting for decades against the state, saying it denies them their share of regional resources.

Punjabis are the largest ethnic group in Pakistan and are perceived to dominate the ranks of the military locked in a battle to quash Balochistan’s armed factions.

Baloch civil leaders claim their communities are subject to a state-sanctioned regime of extrajudicial killings and disappearances, punishing them for political dissent.

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