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11 people killed after being identified in Balochistan

Islamabad, April 13 (IANS) At least 11 people hailing from Pakistan’s Punjab province were abducted, identified, and then killed near Noshki area of Balochistan province on Saturday. The attack suggests a rise in sectarian and provincial hatred among extremist groups in Balochistan.

Unidentified gunmen between 10-12 in number blocked the Quetta-Taftan Highway N-40 of Sultan Chorhai area Noshki and abducted at least 11 passengers from a bus. “The gunmen checked the identity cards of passengers from Taftan-bound bus and kidnapped them. They were subsequently shot dead. The bodies of the abducted passengers were found under a bridge nearby after an hour and a half” said Deputy Commissioner Habibullah Musakhel.

“Nine of the eleven victims were from Punjab,” told Asad Mengal, Noshki Station House officer. Sources said that the gunmen opened fire on a bus after it did not stop at the blockade on Quetta-Taftan highway. Over one dozen gunmen opened fire on the bus from at least three sides, which overturned the bus.

“The gunmen identified government officials among the passengers, specifically those from the Punjab province and killed them. The attack does not seem to be a sectarian one because other pilgrims were not targeted,” said a source with inside knowledge of the incident. It was established that at least nine of the 11 killed were abducted first before being shot dead as their bodies were later found under a nearby bridge.

Security officials have cordoned off the area and a search operation is underway following the incident. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other government officials, including Chief Minister Balochistan Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, have condemned the tragic incident. Experts suggest that the incident reveals a surge in hatred among the people in Balochistan, who have been protesting against neglect from authorities compared to the rest of the country.

“It seems that since the Baloch protest sit-in in Islamabad demanding the government to return the family members of their loved ones, who have been picked up by security forces and have been declared as missing for years; a surge in anti-Pakistan sentiment has spread like wildfire across Balochistan,” said senior political analyst Adnan Shauqat. “The latest attack targeted at government employees from Punjab hints towards the same narrative of provincial level hate, being utilized by extremist groups like the BLA (Baloch Liberation Army) and its affiliates to extend their so-called pro-Baloch and anti-Pakistan campaign” he added.

IANS

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