Gunmen opened fire on a group of minority Shiite Hazara coal miners after abducting them, killing 11 in southwestern Baluchistan province early Sunday, a Pakistani official said. Moazzam Ali Jatoi, an official with the Levies Force, which serves as police and paramilitary in the area, said the attack took place near the Machh coalfield, about 48 kilometers (30 miles) east of the provincial capital Quetta.
Jatoi said armed men took the coal miners to nearby mountains, where they opened fire on them. He said six of the miners were dead on the spot and five who were critically wounded died on the way to a hospital. According to him, an initial investigation revealed the attackers identified the miners as being from a Shiite Hazara community and the gunmen took them away for execution, leaving others unharmed. No group immediately claimed responsibility.
Police video of the bodies revealed the miners were blindfolded and their hands tied behind their backs before being shot. Local television footage showed security troops working in a mountainous area to traffic and guide ambulances to the bodies. Security forces were also seen spreading out in the mountains to search for the perpetrators.
News of the killings spread quickly among the Hazara community and members took to the streets in Quetta and surrounding areas to protest, blocking highways with burning tires and tree trunks. Officials quickly closed the affected roads to traffic.
The violence was largely condemned across the country with Prime Minister Imran Khan saying the perpetrators would be taken to task and the affected families would be taken care of. Shiite cleric Nasir Abbas said protests over the incident would be organized across the country.
Political and religious leaders from different segments of the population also expressed their grief and sorrow over the killings.
Baluchistan is the scene of a low-level insurgency by Baluch separatist groups who also have targeted non-Baluch laborers, but they have no history of attacks on the minority Shiite community.