MEMBERS of the Shia Hazara community stand around the bodies of 11 coal miners in the Mach area of Balochistan on Sunday.—AFP
MEMBERS of the Shia Hazara community stand around the bodies of 11 coal miners in the Mach area of Balochistan on Sunday.—AFP

• IS claims responsibility
• Victims belong to Shia Hazara community
• PM orders FC to bring killers to justice
• Attack triggers protests

QUETTA: Eleven coal miners belonging to the Shia Hazara community sleeping in their room were held at gunpoint, blindfolded and trussed up before being executed by unidentified attackers in the Mach coal field area in the early hours of Sunday morning, official sources said.

The gruesome attack that took place in the mountainous Bolan district, some 100km from Quetta, sparked street protests and drew nationwide condemnation.

Prime Minister Imran Khan while terming it ‘yet another cowardly inhumane act of terrorism’ ordered the Frontier Corps to use all resources to bring the killers to justice and assured families of the victims that they would not be left abandoned by the government.

The militant Islamic State group or Daesh claimed responsibility for the killing.

The victims were identified as Aziz Raza, Mohammad Nazim, Abdul Rahim, Anwar Ali, Sher Mohammad, Ahmed Shah, Muhammad Sadiq, Chaman Ali, Hussain Jan, Asif Ali and Abdullah, all residents of Quetta’s Hazara Town. Sources said they were staying at a mud room near the mine where they worked in Mach Town, which is known for coal mining. However, a senior official of the provincial government said: “At least nine of the Hazara victims belong to Afghanistan.”

The sources said a group of armed men had reached the Gishkery area of coal field on the outskirts of Mach town in the wee hours of Sunday morning and barged into the mud room, where the workers were sleeping. They held all the miners at gunpoint, “tied their hands behind their back and blindfolded them before killing them,” a senior security official of Levies Force told Dawn.

Requesting anonymity, the senior official said the throats of all the victims had been slit and three of them also sustained bullet wounds. Bodies of those three workers were found outside the room, while others were found lying in a pool of blood in their room.

While going to work in the morning, some miners who live at some distance from the murder site saw the three bodies outside the room and informed the local administration. Subsequently, heavy contingent of Levies and Frontier Corps rushed to the site along with Mach Assistant Commissioner Sami Agha and other senior officials.

Officials said all the bodies were shifted to state-run hospital in Mach by the rescue workers and security forces. “The throats of all the bodies were slit and a few also had bullet wounds on their bodies,” said the doctor after examining the bodies. The doctor also confirmed that no wounded was brought to the hospital.

Though the death toll was stated to be 11, some Mach administration officials said the death toll was 10, with four injured. But doctors confirmed that no injured had been brought to any hospital in Quetta and Mach.

As soon as the news of the tragedy spread, a large number of people, including women, from the Hazara community took to the streets near Hazara town. They also blocked traffic on the western bypass by placing torched tyres and rocks on it. At the same time, people from the Hazara community working at the coal mines blocked traffic on the Quetta-Sukkur highway that links Quetta with Sindh. The protesters did not allow the local administration officials to shift bodies to Quetta.

Home Minister Ziaullah Langove, Adviser to the Chief Minister on Culture Abdul Khaliq Hazara, who is also president of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), MPA Qadir Nayal and Deputy Commissioner Aurangzeb Badani reached the western bypass and met the protesters. After negotiations with the administration and security forces, the protesters dispersed peacefully and traffic on the western bypass was restored.

Burial today

The bodies were later brought to Quetta amid tight security and handed over to the heirs who shifted them to an Imambargah before their expected burial in Hazara graveyard on Monday.

Official sources said security forces had launched a combing search operation in the mountainous areas of Mach to trace out the elements involved in the killing of the coal miners.

Earlier, PM Khan in a tweet said: “The condemnable killing of 11 innocent coal miners in Mach Balochistan is yet another cowardly inhumane act of terrorism. Have asked the FC to use all resources to apprehend these killers & bring them to justice. The families of the victims will not be left abandoned by the govt.”

Also, Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari condemned the killing of the workers from the Hazara community and said those involved in the barbarian act must be taken to task.

Balochistan Governor Justice (retd) Amanullah Khan Yasinzai, Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani, Home Minister Ziaullah Langove, Minister for Education Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind, Adviser to the Chief Minister on Information Bushra Rind and leaders of various political parties also condemned the Mach incident.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2021

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