QUETTA, Aug 6: Gunmen disguised as security personnel killed 11 civilians and two security men after kidnapping them from Punjab-bound passenger coaches near Machh Town in Bolan district, about 80km southeast of here, on Tuesday morning.
“About 200 armed men wearing uniform of Frontier Corps and Levies carried out the attack,” Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said, adding that the militants had lined up the passengers in the mountains before killing them. Most of the victims were Punjabi labourers.
The coaches were coming from Quetta.
The banned Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the killings.
Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch condemned the killing and directed the authorities concerned to go after the perpetrators.
Officials confirmed the killing of two security personnel and said the other victims were civilians going to their hometowns of Rahimyar Khan, Sadiqabad, Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan to celebrate Eid with their families.
According to sources, the militants first attacked an oil tanker carrying fuel for the Pakistan Air Force at a place near Machh town early on Tuesday morning. They engaged personnel of Levies, police and Frontier Corps deployed on the highway for security of vehicular traffic.
In the meantime, armed men set up a fake checkpost and started checking passenger buses coming from Quetta.
They stopped five buses at the checkpost and took away 21 passengers with them to nearby mountains. The sources said the armed men lined up 13 of the passengers after checking their identity cards and gunned them down. They released the other passengers, including six Levies personnel. The 13 bullet-riddled bodies were found in the mountains.
Security forces and local administration officials rushed to the site and the bodies were taken to the Machh District Hospital and later to the Civil Hospital Quetta.
“I brought 13 bodies to the Machh hospital,” Assistant Commissioner Kashif Nabi told Dawn. “The victims were hit from a close range in the head and chest,” sources in the Civil Hospital said. Some of them suffered multiple bullet wounds.
Bolan’s Deputy Commissioner Abdul Waheed Shah said the militants had attacked the oil tanker to engage security forces and set up their ‘checkpoint’ to kidnap passengers. One FC man was killed and the driver of a vehicle injured during an exchange of fire between security forces and the militants.
“Security forces are looking for the militants in the area,” Mr Shah said. Home Secretary Akbar Durrani told reporters that there would be a targeted operation and all resources would be used to capture the killers.
“The operation will cover a vest area,” Zubair Ahmed Kurd, a senior official of the local administration, said.
The 13 victims were identified as Ahmed, Shakeel Ahmed and Mohammad Bakhsh (from Sadiqabad), Mohammad Aslam, Saqib and Hawaldar Arshad (Rahimyar Khan), Shahid (Multan), Shakeel (Dera Ghazi Khan), Abdul Malik (Muzaffargarh), Mohammad Ashraf and Shaukat Ali (Faisalabad) and FC man Safeer Ahmed.
“We are labourers. My relative was going to Alipur village to celebrate Eid with the family but now I am receiving his body,” Mohammad Yousuf said in the Civil Hospital.
“I lost my brother and nephew,” said another man who declined to be identified. He said he worked in an optical shop. “Thanks God my two other relatives are safe, but I lost my bother and nephew.”
A spokesman for the BLA identifying himself as Mirack Baloch said their men had kidnapped and killed 13 people. Calling to journalists from a satellite phone, he said they had killed the passengers after checking their identity. He said 26 people had been kidnapped from different buses and 13 of them, including five Levies personnel, were freed after taking their official weapons.
But according to the officials, eight people escaped when the kidnappers were taking them to the mountains.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the killings and ordered arrest of the perpetrators.
Balochistan Governor Mohammad Khan Achakzai and Senior Minister Sardar Sanaullah Zehri also condemned the killings and said the elements involved in the inhuman act would be brought to justice.
This was the seventh such incident in Bolan.