At least 10 labourers were killed in Balochistan's Gwadar district on Saturday as unidentified assailants opened fire at the construction site where they were working, Levies sources said.
Unidentified gunmen on motorcycles opened indiscriminate fire on a group of labourers working at a road in Gwadar's Pishgan area, killing eight of them on the spot, Levies sources confirmed.
- Two gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on group of labourers in Gwadar
- Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility of attack
- The road where labourers were working was not a specific CPEC-funded project
A spokesman for the separatist Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the incident in a telephone call to AFP.
Two of the injured labourers succumbed to gunshot wounds while they were being rushed to the District Headquarters Hospital, they added.
Examine: The tough road to corridor
Local administration official Munir Zamari told AFP there were two gunmen riding on motorbikes who opened fire on the construction workers at the site.
The assailants attacked the men at two separate construction sites three kilometres apart along the same road. They then fled the scene.
"All the labourers were shot at close range," said senior levies official Muhammad Zareef.
A special military C-130 aircraft flew the remains of the slain labourers after funeral prayers to their hometown in Sindh's Naushahro Feroze district.
Frontier Corps, police and levies personnel have reached the spot and an investigation is underway.
Security challenges facing Balochistan and CPEC
The shooting incident occurs as Pakistan and China inks agreements aimed at boosting cooperation in various sectors between the two countries on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum, which is underway in Beijing at the moment.
China is also developing the warm water Gwadar port, a prominent feature of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan. The CPEC project — with an investment of $46 billion and the Gwadar port as its lynchpin — is billed to be a 'game-changer' and manifestation of strategic partnership between Pakistan and China.
Though the road where the labourers were working was not a specific CPEC-funded project, it was a part of a network of connecting roads that are part of the corridor ─ a common target for separatists militants who view construction projects as a means to take over their land.
Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti also confirmed the death toll while speaking to DawnNews. Condemning the incident, he said, "We will not bow down before terrorists."
The government has deployed a Maritime Security Force (MSF) and Special Security Division (SSD) to protect projects under CPEC, including Gwadar and other coastal areas, and ensure safety of locals and foreigners working on CPEC projects.
'44 workers killed since 2014'
The need to tighten security in Balochistan has grown over the years as separatist militants continue to wage their campaign against the central government for decades, demanding a greater share of the gas-rich region's resources.
Security officials have said previously that militants trying to disrupt construction on the economic corridor have killed 44 workers since 2014, all of whom were Pakistani but often hailing from other provinces.
Armed militants attacked at labourers camp in Turbat on April 11, 2015 killing 20 labourers. The defunct Baloch separatist organization Baloch Liberation Front had claimed the responsibility for the attack. Similarly, in April this year, four Sindhi labourers were gunned down by suspected militants while working on a road that was under construction in Kharan district.