A wounded woman attacker raises her hand next to a security checkpost during exchange of fire with Pakistani troops in Quetta on May 17, 2011. – Photo by AFP

QUETTA: A Pakistan provincial government on Thursday ordered an inquiry into the killing by security forces of five Chechens, including three women, after media said they had been unarmed.

The group was killed this week, with authorities saying they were al-Qaeda-linked suicide bombers.

CCPO Quetta claimed on Thursday that the Chechens died due to an explosion and not by gunfire, DawnNews reported.

Militants have stepped up attacks in Pakistan after the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US special forces in the northwestern town of Abbottabad on May 2.

Last week, 80 people were killed in twin suicide bombings at a paramilitary academy in the northwestern town of Charsadda.

On Tuesday, the paramilitary Frontier Corps and police gunned down five Chechens near a security checkpoint on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, saying explosives were strapped to their bodies and they were attempting to attack government forces.

But the media raised doubts over statements by security forces, with television footage showing a wounded woman waving her hand in the air before her death.

The daily Dawn on Thursday quoted witnesses as saying that the suspects were unarmed, had put up no resistance to the security forces and appeared to be about to surrender.

“The chief minister has ordered an inquiry after media reports raised doubts about the whole incident,” a provincial government spokesman told Reuters, referring to the head of the province.

Two officials of a bomb disposal squad which searched the bodies after the shooting told Reuters that they found no explosives strapped to the bodies of the Chechens.

“They were unarmed and had no suicide jackets or explosives with them,” one of the officials said.

“Five valid and two expired Russian passports were found in a ladies' handbag lying with the bodies,” the second official said.

A witness earlier this week said the five had got out of a vehicle and were chased by police before they were shot.

Pakistan's commitment to fighting militancy has come under intense scrutiny after discovery of the al Qaeda chief near a military academy in the military town not far away from Islamabad.

Pakistan's tribal areas along the Afgfhan border has been described as a global hub for militants, including Arabs and Chechens inspired by Al Qaeda.

A decade after federal forces drove separatists out of power in Chechnya in the second of two wars, the North Caucasus are plagued by near-daily violence, where rebels want to carve out a separate Islamic state with Sharia law.

While Chechnya now rests on a shaky peace, neighbouring regions are at the heart of a growing insurgency.