SECURITY personnel stand in front of the bus after it was fired upon in Chilas on Saturday.—Umer Farooqi
SECURITY personnel stand in front of the bus after it was fired upon in Chilas on Saturday.—Umer Farooqi

• Vehicle en route to Islamabad collides with truck due to firing; 21 passengers wounded • Minister terms it ‘terrorist’ attack

GILGIT: At least nine people lost their lives and 21 passengers received injuries after an Islamabad-bound bus came under fire near Chilas in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan on Saturday evening.

Officials said unknown gunmen targeted the bus, operated by a local private company, from nearby hills which caused the vehicle to swerve into a goods truck, causing a head-on collision which also killed the truck driver. Police said the bus was on its way from Ghizer district to Islamabad via Gilgit. It started its journey from Ghizer, and made a stop at Gilgit to pick up more passengers, before moving towards the federal capital.

It was near Hudor village in Chilas — the headquarters of Diamer district — when gunmen fired at the vehicle, leading to the accident that killed nine people and injured 21, including two gravely wounded who were shifted to Gilgit. The GB interior minister said the bus driver stepped on the accelerator due to the firing which led to its head-on collision with a goods truck. He equated the gun attack with terrorism.

The injured and the bodies were shifted to the regional headquarters hospital, Chilas. So far no organisation has accepted responsibility for the incident.

A statement issued by the Diamer deputy commissioner said the incident occurred at 6:30pm in the Hudur area of Chilas. “An unfortunate incident occurred in which a cowardly act was done, targeting a bus,” he said, adding that five dead bodies had been identified.

The passengers travelling in the bus hailed from Ghizer, Gilgit, Ska­rdu, Hunza, Nagar, Kohistan, Manse­hra, Peshawar, Swabi, and parts of Sindh. Two soldiers of Pakistan Army were also killed in the incident while a police official was injured.

According to a district government official, the rest of the vehicles on the Karakorum Highway remained safe and moved from the site of the attack in the form of a convoy. He said the law enforcers were collecting evidence from the scene.

Diamer Superintendent of Police Sardar Shehryar told Dawn.com that the first responders on the scene were police officers who moved the dead and the injured, adding that the truck which had collided with the bus was also on fire and its driver killed.

GB Chief Minister Haji Gulbar Khan condemned the attack and said that a special team had been formed to investigate the incident. “The government is under attack. The terrorists involved [in the gun attack] will definitely be punished and brought to justice and will be punished severely,” he said.

The CM announced that the GB government would use all its resources to arrest the culprits and those injured in the accident. He said the government would bear all the expenses of the affected persons and ensure better medical facilities. He vowed to bring culprits to justice and said the GB government was taking all possible measures to establish peace in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Information Eman Shah told journalists that the law enforcement agencies had been given orders to arrest the culprits immediately. The plan to round up the militants was being supervised by the Gilgit-Baltistan police chief, he added.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2023

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