MANSEHRA, Aug 16: Terrorists ambushed four buses, pulled out the passengers and shot at least 19 of them dead in the Babusar Top area of Mansehra district on Thursday.
Before killing the passengers, the assailants had checked their identity cards and shot them because they were Shia.
“More than 50 terrorists wearing commando uniform intercepted a convoy going from Rawalpindi to Gilgit-Baltistan before 7am, hauled off passengers from four vans, identified them through their national identity cards and shot 19 of them dead,” District Coordination Officer Dr Amber Ali Khan said.
He said several CNICs had been found at the place in the mountain range where the attack had taken place.
“This attack appears to be similar to the one carried out in Harban area of Kohistan in February and almost all the victims belonged to the Shia community,” he said.
Doctors and paramedics were sent to Naran to perform autopsy.
“The convoy had left Naran at about 3am after Sehri,” Zahoor Ibrahim, owner of a small hotel in Naran, said. “A man who was going to Rawalpindi told me that he had seen bodies scattered all over the place.”
Transporters started using the Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad road instead of the Karakoram Highway after 20 Shia passengers had been killed in Harban on Feb 28.
Our Correspondent adds from Khyber Agency: The Darra Adamkhel Taliban, led by Tariq Afridi, claimed responsibility for the attack.
A spokesman for the group, Mohammad, called this correspondent and said the killings were in retaliation for what he termed excesses committed by Shias against Sunnis in Gilgit-Baltistan. He said more such attacks would be carried out in other parts of the country.
Our Correspondent in Gilgit adds: The passenger buses going to Astore were attacked by masked terrorists in Lolosar area of Jalkhad, police said.
Mansehra district police chief Sher Akbar Khan said the attackers had taken away the identity cards of the victims and most of the bodies had been identified with the help of other people.
A police official in Gilgit-Baltistan said the terrorists did not meet any resistance when they lined up the victims and killed them in cold blood and left the place.
He said the hands of some of the victims had been tied.
Reporters faced difficulties in covering the incident because mobile phone signals are not received in the remote area.
The news spread like wildfire in Gilgit-Baltistan and all markets in Gilgit were deserted.
According to Shafi Gul, an official of Naran police station, two foreign tourists and their Pakistani guides were the first to reach the place after the attack and reported it to police.
The victims included Yaqoob Ali, Sajid Hussain, Ijlal Hussain, Ghulam Mustafa, Mohammad Hanif, Mazhar Ali, Ghulam Nabi, Nisar, Ishtiaq and Musharraf Alam of Astore; Fida Ali, Mansoor Khan and Haider Zaman of Bagrote; Tahir Mehmood of Gujranwala and Mohammad Hussain of Karachi’s Shah Faisal Colony.
A police official said two of the victims were Sunnis.
A meeting of law-enforcement officers was held at the Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister’s House and consultations were held with the Masajid Boards.
Security patrols were increased and a search of all vehicles entering or leaving the region was started.
AFP adds: Mobs burnt tyres and blocked roads in some parts of Gilgit in protest against the killings.
The provincial government said the road from Babusar to Gilgit had been closed for an indefinite period.