Gunmen in Balochistan’s Machh area have killed at least 11 workers at a remote coal mine, officials said Sunday. The victims of the attack in Balochistan province were from the minority Shiite Hazara community.
“Dead bodies of the 11 miners have been taken to a local hospital,” Khalid Durrani, a government official in the area, told AFP.
Ethnic Hazara makes up most of the Shiite population in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan — the country’s largest and poorest region, rife with ethnic, sectarian, and separatist insurgencies.
Read more: ‘Historic achievement’ adds 126 MBBS and BDS seats in just one year in Balochistan
They are often targeted by Sunni militants, who consider them heretics, though it was unclear why the attackers targeted the coal mine specifically.
The attack, before dawn on Sunday, took place in the far-flung and mountainous Machh area — 60 kilometers southeast of Quetta — while the miners slept, Durrani said.
A security official told AFP the attackers first separated the miners, tied their hands and feet, took them out into the hills, and later killed them.
Read more: Op-ed: Picturing a depressed Balochistan
Both Durrani and the security official said the victims belonged to the Hazara community.
Durrani said the mine was deep in the mountains.
Abid Salim, a top government official in the area, told AFP “they tied their hands and feet and brutally slaughtered them with some sharp instrument”.
Some of the victims were beheaded, he added.
Read more: Why is the female literacy rate in Balochistan the lowest in the world?
The assailants fled after the attack. Both officials said police and members of the local paramilitary force were on the scene, where a search operation had been launched to trace the attackers.
Dozens of local people and family members briefly blocked a main road in the area, demanding protection.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
Read more: Government to lift the ban on new gas connections in Balochistan
In a tweet, Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned “the killing of 11 innocent coal miners in Machh” as a “cowardly inhumane act of terrorism”.
The condemnable killing of 11 innocent coal miners in Machh 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
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 3, 2021
Pakistan People’s Party’s Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also condemned the incident. “Terrorism should be condemned by every Pakistani and urged the government to take action and provide protection to the workers in the coal-fields,” he said in a statement.
Chairman PPP @BBhuttoZardari strongly condemns the brutal massacre of eleven coal-miners in Bolan and terms the killing of innocent labourers as worst form of terrorismhttps://t.co/yVfNIiG8eS
— PPP (@MediaCellPPP) January 3, 2021
Liaqat Shahwani, a spokesman for the provincial government, confirmed the incident and told TV channel Geo that it was an act of terrorism.
Though Pakistan’s mines are notorious for poor safety standards, such attacks against miners are rare.
Read more: Mari petroleum diversification strategy takes it into the mineral excavation in Balochistan
AFP with additional input from the GVS news desk