Gunmen shot and killed at least 20 labourers at a construction site in Pakistan as they slept on Saturday night, officials have confirmed.
The attack occurred at a site 15 km from the town of Turbat in the gas- and mineral-rich Balochistan province. The labourers were working on a dam project in the Gobdan area, and were all from outside the region. Of the dead, 16 were from Pakistan’s Punjab province and four were from the Sindh province.
Eight security guards, all from the Balochistan region, were unharmed.
According to Pasand Khan Buledi, police commissioner of the Makran division, said a large group of armed men attacked a labour camp near the dam construction site. They overpowered the eight guards, shot the sleeping workers – having identified that they were from outside the region – before escaping.
Provincial Interior Minister Akbar Hussain Durrani told reporters, “All were sleeping in their camp when they were targeted.”
He quoted three wounded survivors as saying that around 15-20 gunmen overpowered eight guards from a government paramilitary force, then opened fire on the sleeping men with automatic weapons. They escaped on motorcycles.
A man claiming to be a spokesman for the banned Baloch Liberation Front called local reporters and said his group had carried out the attack as a reprisal for military operations in the area.
Balochistan borders Afganistan and Iran, and is Pakistan’s poorest and most sparsely populated area.
Late last month, unknown militants set at least five oil tankers on fire and abducted four drivers reportedly carrying fuel for a Chinese company working on the Saindak Project in Balochistan’s Chaghi district, outside the provincial capital Quetta.
Police sources said the privately owned tankers were targeted because they supply oil to a Chinese company working on a major project in the province.
The attack took place as Pakistan prepares to hand over its deep sea Gwadar port to Chinese interests this month. The atmosphere surrounding the handover is tense.
According to reports, militants with sophisticated weapons began firing indiscriminately on the tankers near the Kirdi Gap area of Mastung district late Monday morning. Police and frontier corps are investigating the attack. Efforts have also been made to trace the missing drivers.