QUETTA, July 6: Gunmen killed 18 people having lunch in a roadside eatery in Horr Shorly area of Turbat on Friday. Two other men were seriously injured.
No organisation claimed responsibility till late Friday night for the attack by six gunmen.
The killing appeared to be different from the familiar pattern of recent attacks targeting mostly Shia pilgrims going to Iran, although the victims also were traveling to Iran.
Official sources told Dawn that most of the people in the group were from Punjab. They reportedly planned to enter Iran illegally in order to subsequently go to Europe. They had stopped in Horr Shorly for lunch when they were pelted with bullets.
“Six men on three motorcycles came to the restaurant and started firing indiscriminately at the people having a meal,” a senior official of the district administration said, adding that 18 people died on the spot.
The attackers managed to escape. The motive for the attack could not be ascertained, the official said.
Law-enforcement personnel rushed to the site and took the dead and injured to Turbat hospital.
Doctors said all victims had suffered multiple bullet wounds which caused immediate death. The condition of the two injured was stated to be critical.
District administration sources said that the victims belonged to different areas of Punjab and they had paid money to a gang of human traffickers to be taken to European countries via Iran and Turkey.
Sources said the victims had earlier arrived in Karachi and travelled through the coastal highway to the Guddan area of Turbat to cross into Iran.
Sources also said the group avoided entering Iran via the Zero-Gate in Taftan on the Pak-Iran border, possibly because they had no legal travel documents. Law-enforcement personnel have cordoned off the entire area to trace suspects.
Although no group had claimed responsibility for attacking the group, police sources citing findings of a preliminary investigation claimed that separatist militant groups appeared to be involved in the killing.
Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani condemned the killings and said human smugglers and traffickers involved in the incident would be arrested.
Cleric shot dead
A religious scholar was gunned down in the Sariab area of Quetta on Friday night.
Official sources told Dawn that two gunmen on a bike came to the Musa Colony and opened fire on Maulana Muhammad Qasim who was standing outside his house.“
The Maulana was hit by five bullets and died on the spot,” police said. The attackers managed to escape.
Police rushed to the place, took the body to a hospital and handed it over to the family after post-mortem.
Maulana Qasim belonged to Sar Mastani Baloch tribe, a police official said, adding that it appeared to be a sectarian incident.
No group claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack till late Friday night.