Karachi: Unidentified militants shot dead at least 22 people after abducting about 30 passengers from two Karachi-bound buses in Pakistan's restive southwestern Balochistan province, prompting a massive operation by security forces to hunt down the gunmen.
The militants, wearing security forces uniforms, stormed two buses in Mastung district last night that were en route to Karachi after picking up passengers in Quetta and Pishin, and carried mostly people from outside the province.
They kidnapped about 30 passengers and later killed at least 22 of them, officials and media reports said. Frontier Corps and Levies personnel launched a massive operation in the Khadkochay area of the Mastung district to hunt down the gunmen and had recovered six passengers from the mountains.
Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti told PTI that unidentified gunmen around 20 to 25 in number came in heavy vehicles and stopped two passenger buses.
“They got the passengers out of the buses and kidnapped around 30 of them releasing five of them later on but started killing the rest after the (military) operation began,” he said.
The gunmen had fled into the mountains leaving the bodies behind which were recovered by security forces and rescue teams, Bugti said, adding that a search for the rest was on. No particular group has claimed responsibility for the attack but security forces suspect Baloch separatists were involved.
A survivor told a TV channel that militants verified the ethnicity of kidnapped men through national identity cards and killed the Pashtun passengers while sparing the Baloch. Another survivor said the passengers came out of the buses as they thought the militants were security forces personnel as they wore their uniform.
Meanwhile, Bugti also alleged that India's intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was involved in the killings.
He said the “designs of the enemy” would be foiled as both the ethnic groups of the province understand the “real intention behind the killing”.
Pakistani officials and the army have recently blamed RAW several times for allegedly supporting groups creating instability in the country.
They have alleged that it was part of efforts to derail the Chinese investment in Pakistan. Last week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that enemies of Pakistan were trying to harm the USD 45 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Relatives of those killed and kidnapped in yesterday's incident staged a sit-in outside the Governor House in Quetta, demanding justice and a military operation in the province. They placed 16 coffins with the bodies of their dead and refused to bury their dead until the government guaranteed their protection, a media report said.