By Abdullah Zahid.
QUETTA: Gunmen opened fire on a group of minority Shiite Hazara coal miners after abducting them, killing 11 in the Machh area of Balochistan early Sunday, law enforcement agencies confirmed.
According to details, armed men took the coal miners to nearby mountains and opened fire on them resulting in thirteen casualties and several injuries.
Moazzam Ali Jatoi, an official with the Levies Force, which serves as police and paramilitary in the area, said six of the miners were dead on the spot, and five who were critically wounded died on the way to a hospital.
Jatoi said an initial investigation revealed the attackers identified the miners as being from the Shia Hazara community and the gunmen took them away for execution, leaving others unharmed.
Following the attack, heavy contingent of police, FC personnel, and district administration officials reached the site and have started collecting evidence. The area has been cordoned off for investigation.
Local television footage showed security troops surrounding a desolated mountainous area diverting traffic and guiding ambulances to pick up the bodies. Security forces were also seen spreading out in the mountains to search for the perpetrators.
To protest against the attack, residents of Hazara Town blocked the Northern Bypass and burnt tyres there.
The protesters have organised a sit-in on the road leading from Mach to Quetta with the bodies. They said they won’t move unless justice is served.
Following this, Balochistan Shia Conference President Dawood Aghar reached the site and is trying to reach an agreement with them.
“We are trying to end the protests and move the bodies to Quetta immediately,” he said, adding that the protesters have communicated their demands.
Prime Minister Imran Khan took note of the incident, referring to it as a “cowardly inhumane act of terrorism”. In a tweet, the prime minister called on the FC to use all resources at their disposal to find out who committed the terrorist act and bring them to book.
“The condemnable killing of 11 innocent coal miners in Machh Balochistan is yet another cowardly inhumane act of terrorism. Have asked the FC to use all resources to apprehend these killers & bring them to justice. The families of the victims will not be left abandoned by the govt,” he tweeted.
Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed while condemning the killings asked the Balochistan inspector general of police to submit a report on the incident.
“Terrorists will not succeed in their nefarious objectives. Elements involved in the incident are not deserving of any laxity,” he said.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz said the shootings in Mach were “condemnable and saddening”. Foreign enemies are making constant efforts to destablise Pakistan, he added.
PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari termed the incident as “the worst form of terrorism”.
In a statement, Bilawal called on the government to take action and provide protection to miners working in the coalfields.
The PPP chairperson also asked the federal and provincial governments to provide “compensation to the families of the miners and ensure that such incidents do not occur again”.
Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani said that security forces had surrounded the area and started the investigation. “[We] will bring the terrorists to justice,” he vowed.