Shootings roil Balochistan

Firing incidents in Quetta

QUETTA: Eight people, including a woman and two local UN employees, were killed in separate firing incidents in Quetta and Mastung on Thursday.

In the first incident, the gunmen who were on motorbikes opened indiscriminate fire on a van carrying Shias from Hazara community in Quetta, killing five people.There were angry demonstrations after the killings in which a policeman also died.According to the police, the van was heading towards Marriabad from Hazara Town when the armed men intercepted it and sprayed a volley of bullets on it with sophisticated weapons on Spini Road near Killi Mubarak. Five people, including a woman, received multiple bullet wounds and died instantly while seven others were critically injured.

The assailants after mowing down the people swiftly fled the scene.Police and other law enforcement agencies rushed to the site soon after the incident and cordoned off the area. The dead and injured were shifted to Civil Hospital Quetta and Bolan Medical Complex Hospital where an emergency was declared. Some critically wounded persons were later taken to the Combined Military Hospital.

“Preliminary investigation reports suggest that it was a sectarian attack,” a police officer told this scribe, adding that further investigation into the murder was under way.The killings of Hazara community members sparked violent protests in the provincial capital as protestors torched a Wasa tanker, a vehicle, a motorbike and an under-construction girls’ college on Brewery Road.

Police used teargas to disperse the protestors. The angry protestors also fired gunshots in Hazara Town and a bullet hit a police constable, Muhammad Zaman, who later succumbed to his injuries.The demonstrators burnt tyres and forced shopkeepers to close their businesses. They burnt tyres at Spini Road, Brewery Road, Gulistan Chowk and Bacha Khan Chowk that badly disrupted the flow of traffic.

Condemning the Shias killings, Hazara Democratic Party has announced a black day and a shutterdown strike in Quetta on Friday (today) while Tahafuz-e-Azadaran Council announced three-day mourning over the barbaric incident.Addressing a press conference, Balochistan Shia Conference President Ashraf Zaidi said members of Hazara community were being targeted under a conspiracy, adding that a third party was involved in the killings.

He said several scholars of Al-Sunna were under attack during past few months which was highly condemnable. He proposed to form a grand jirga comprising Lashkari Raisani and other leaders to stop killings of Hazara community and warned that if the killings were not stopped they would start a strong movement.Following the incident, the provincial government beefed up security and a joint search operation was conducted by police and Frontier Corps in different areas of the city. They rounded up over 40 suspects.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.In another incident, unidentified armed men also shot dead two workers of UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in Mastung, some 60 km southeast of Quetta.Official sources said three employees of FAO were on their way to Mastung from Quetta in a vehicle when the gunmen on a motorbike opened fire on them near Mastung Stadium bypass, killing two of them. While the third person received bullet injuries.It was not immediately clear why they were targeted and so far no one has claimed responsibility. – Nation