Suspected to be Baloch separatists, 20-25 militants stopped the buses ferrying over 30 passengers, mostly Pashtuns, in southwestern Mastung district last night when they were heading to Karachi from Quetta and Pishin.
According to a survivor, the gunmen asked the passengers to come out and they obeyed the instructions, thinking they were military personnel.
The gunmen kidnapped about 30 passengers and later killed at least 22 of them, officials and media reports said. At least two of the militants were today killed in a massive operation mounted by the Frontier Corps (FC) and Levies personnel in the Khadkochay area of the Mastung district to hunt down the gunmen and had recovered six passengers from the mountains, an FC official said.
Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti told PTI that unidentified gunmen around 20 to 25 in number came in heavy vehicles and stopped the 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 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.
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.
Meanwhile, Bugti also alleged that India’s intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) was involved in the killings.