26 executed in hail of gunfire

QUETTA: At least 29 Shias were killed and 10 received critical wounds in two back-to-back brutal attacks in Ghanjdori and Akhtarabad areas on Tuesday.The deceased, mostly belonging to Shia Hazara community, were travelling to Taftan from Quetta, located some 700 Km west of Quetta.Banned religious outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has accepted responsibility for the killing of Shia pilgrims.Deputy Commissioner Mastung, Saeed Umrani confirmed that 26 passengers were killed and six were injured while condition of four was critical.He said devotees’ bus was heading towards Taftan from Quetta and it was passing from Ghanjdori area when unidentified armed men riding in two different vehicles intercepted it and forced the pilgrims to get off.

“Assailants, lined up passengers and then opened indiscriminate fire on them,” he added.Eyewitnesses said the firing lasted between 5 to 10 minutes and Levies Force reached at the scene quite late and the assailants easily escaped from the site. The deceased and injured were first rushed to nearby hospital in Mastung and then shifted to Bolan Medical Complex Hospital and Civil Hospital.Bus driver, Khushal Khan, told media persons about the gory incident that 45 passengers were onboard and they were travelling without any security.“Attackers who were probably 8 to 10 in two different vehicles were following the bus and as we reached Ghanjdori area they intercepted the bus,” he said adding, the assailants, carrying Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers, forced all the passengers to get off.

“The passengers were just getting off when they opened indiscriminate fire on them from different directions. I and some other passengers managed to escape from the scene and saved our lives,” he added. A 14-year-old boy who remained unhurt in the attack told TheNation that the attackers only lined up members of Hazara community and opened fire on them. “One of the attackers was also making movie of the incident,” he added. Quetta-Taftan Highway is the main highway from where dozens of buses on daily basis carrying passengers including Shia pilgrims travel to Taftan and then to Iran.

Pilgrims from all four provinces mostly prefer this route to travel to Iran.Balochistan Home Secretary Naseebullah Bazai said they were not informed about the bus of pilgrims and it was necessary to take permission from home department so that pilgrims’ buses could be provided security. “In future the buses of pilgrims will not be allowed to travel without security,” he added.

He conceded that there was no checkpost of Levies Force about 10 Km on highway where the gruesome incident occurred but Levies personnel were deployed on Quetta-Taftan Highway. He said, “Underground organisations are behind these attacks and government would utilise all available resources to bring culprits to the book particularly those who are involved in sectarian terrorism,” he added.

Earlier in June this year, a group of armed men had ambushed a bus carrying pilgrims from Balochistan to Iran, killing two people and injuring nine others in Quetta’s western bypass near Akhtarabad Similarly, in January last year three pilgrims including a woman were killed and five others were wounded in an attack that had happened at Hazar Ganji in the outskirts of Quetta.

In the meanwhile, a group of relatives of Ghanjdori victims riding a car were attacked in Akhtarabad, in the outskirts of Quetta when they were going to collect the bodies of their kin. Two of them were killed on the spot while two sustained injuries. One of the injured succumbed to his injuries in Bolan Medical Complex Hospital later.

Governor Balochistan Nawaz Zulfiqar Ali Magsi and Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Muhammad Aslam Raisani have strongly condemned the brutal murder of innocent people and ordered immediate arrest of culprits involved in the carnage.Hazara Democratic Party, Tahfuz Azadari Council and Shia Ulema Council have condemned the barbaric incident and announced 7-day-mourning and shutterdown on Wednesday.

Ali Sher Haideri who claims to be the spokesman of banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi called different newspaper offices and TV channels and claimed responsibility for killing Shia community members.He claimed that LeJ activists would continue such attacks against the members of Shia community and also threatened the transporters and administrative officials of dire consequences if they did not stop using the coaches for Shia pilgrims and providing security guards for them.

He also said that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi accepted the challenge of SSP CID Karachi Chaudhry Aslam and would teach him a lesson.Meanwhile, hundreds of activists of HDP burnt tyres at Allamdar Road on Tuesday night to protest the killing of Shia community people.They chanted slogans against brutal killings of innocent people and demanded of the government to immediately arrest the culprits. – Nation