By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Gunmen shot dead at least 14 passengers in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan Province on Thursday morning, an official and local media said.
The gruesome incident -- latest in a fresh flare-up of violence -- took place on a main highway that connects Pakistan's commercial capital Karachi to southwestern strategic Gwadar port, where unidentified assailants in camouflage uniform intercepted five to six passenger buses, Gwadar’s Deputy Commissioner retired Capt. Muhammad Waseem told reporters.
The heavily-armed assailants, according to local broadcaster Dawn News that quoted unnamed security sources, first offloaded the passengers and then took 16 with them after checking their identification in remote Buzi Top area.
At least 14 were killed by the gunmen while two managed to escape and reached a nearby security check post. Security forces rushed to the spot and shifted the bodies to the area hospital.
Security forces have launched an investigation into the incident, including the possible motive, which might be sectarian or linguistic.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan has condemned the “dastardly act of terror” and directed the authorities to bring the perpetrators of the “barbaric act” to justice.
Khan also expressed his sympathies with the families of the victims.
In a similar incident in 2015, gunmen kidnapped and later killed 19 passengers of Karachi-bound buses in the mountainous Khad Kocha region of Balochistan.
The large Balochistan province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has seen a fresh wave of violence in recent weeks. At least 21 people were killed and dozens injured in a suicide attack in the provincial capital Quetta last week.
The province is strategically important because of the rich presence of copper, zinc and natural gas but has beset by violence for over six decades.
The province is also a key route of multi-billion dollars China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) -- a part of Beijing's ambitious One Belt-One Road project.
Various sectarian outfits, including Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, have also been active in the region, especially in Quetta for the last decade.