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Gunmen in restive Pakistan province kill 7 barbers

Attack was the second within a month in the restive province targeting people from the Punjab
Paramedics carry slain migrant laborers' coffins at a hospital in Quetta on April 13. The May 9 attack which killed 7 people is the second in less than 30 days.

Paramedics carry the coffins of slain migrant workers coffins from a hospital in Quetta on April 13. A second attack on May 9 killed another 7 people. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 10, 2024 08:34 AM GMT
Updated: May 10, 2024 08:58 AM GMT

Unidentified gunmen have shot dead seven workers and injured one in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan where separatists have been fighting for independence.

The attack took place in the Surbandan area of Gwadar in Balochistan. The assailants stormed a house at around 3 a.m. on May 9 and shot dead seven barbers and injured another, said Zohaib Mohsin, senior superintendent of police in the capital Quetta.

“All of them worked together and lived in the same house,” Mohsin told UCA News on May 10.

The dead hailed from Khanewal and Lodhran districts in Punjab province, he added.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the killings.

Balochistan Chief Minister Sarfraz Bugti condemned the killings and promised a thorough probe.

“It goes against our culture and traditions to kill our guests [Punjabi workers] with extreme brutality,” he said.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has expressed his condolences to the victims’ families.

“This incident of terrorism is a cowardly act by the enemies of the country,” he said.

While expressing concern, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan noted that this was the second incident in Balochistan where workers from Punjab, the most prosperous and most populous province in the South Asian nation, have been killed.

Balochistan, bordering Iran, is Pakistan’s largest province but the most backward in all developmental indicators.

The separatists, including the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), blame the national government and the administration in Punjab for exploiting the mineral-rich province and denying a share in resources among locals.

The national government has denied the accusations and has conducted several military operations against the BLA over the past two decades.

In April, the BLA claimed responsibility for killing nine Punjab residents in Nushki city in Balochistan who were traveling to Iran. All of them were laborers who were shot dead after they were ordered off a bus.

Baloch insurgent groups carried out 71 attacks in 2022, mainly targeting security and military personnel, according to media reports.

Pakistan's military started intensive counterinsurgency operations in Balochistan in 2006 when a leading tribal leader, Akbar Bugti, was killed in an operation authorized by General Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan at the time. His killing triggered what Baloch nationalists call the "fifth war of independence" since 1947 when a section of people stood against accession to the newly independent Pakistan, a former UK colony.

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