Updated April 13th, 2024 at 21:33 IST

Pakistan: Search on for Gunmen who Abducted Bus Passengers, Killed 11

The abduction took place on Friday in Balochistan province, which has long been the scene of an insurgency by separatists fighting for independence.

At least 11 people were killed by gunmen in Pakistan's Balochistan on Friday. | Image:AP
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Quetta, Pakistan: Pakistani police searched for gunmen who killed nine people after abducting them from a bus on a highway in the country’s southwest. The same attackers earlier killed two people and wounded six in another car they forced to stop.

The abduction took place on Friday in Balochistan province, which has long been the scene of an insurgency by separatists fighting for independence.

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Deputy Commissioner Habibullah Mosakhail said Saturday that the gunmen 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, he said.

Police later recovered nine bodies under a bridge about 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the highway. Earlier on Friday, the same gunmen had opened fire at a vehicle that failed to stop for their blockade, killing two and wounding six.

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A search for the perpetrators was underway, Mosakhail said. The bus was heading from the provincial capital of Quetta to Taftan, a town bordering Iran.

Eyewitness 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 reporters.

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“We heard the armed men open fire on those people as we drove away,” said Ahmed. “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.”

Another witness, Mohammad Tahir, said the gunmen who boarded the bus had targeted people from Punjab. “They said, ‘Get up from your seats whoever is from Punjab,’” said Tahir.

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They asked the standing passengers if they were from that province and then swore at them. “'You kill our children,” said Tahir, quoting the gunmen. ‘"You do bad things to us.’"

An initial police report said that 19 of the passengers were travelling to Iran on their way to Western countries as migrants. The report, shared with The Associated Press, said that two of those abducted and killed were human smugglers.

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Punjab has emerged as a hotspot for Pakistanis trying to make the perilous journey to Europe hoping for a better life there.

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

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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.

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

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killings. Police said there was no ransom demand and no indication of a motive for the attacks.

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Although the government says it has quelled the insurgency, violence in Balochistan has persisted.

In the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the army said Saturday that two soldiers were killed in a gunfight with militants in Bunar district.

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In a statement, the military said a high-profile Pakistani Taliban commander was also killed. He was involved in activities against security forces, extortion and the targeted killing of civilians, according to the statement.

A spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban, Muhammad Khorasani, paid tribute to the slain commander.

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Published April 13th, 2024 at 21:33 IST