Three others wounded after Baloch Liberation Front attacks construction camp late at night.
Gunmen in Balochistan have killed 20 construction workers, shooting them at point blank range after identifying where they were from, officials said Saturday.
The area is plagued by violence, with separatists seeking greater control over the province’s rich oil, gas and mineral resources, and gunmen have previously targeted outsiders seen as settlers. The Baloch Liberation Front (BLF), an armed group that wants the province to be “liberated” from the rest of Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the incident.
“Armed gunmen stormed the camp of laborers in Gokh Don area of Balochistan late Friday night and killed 20 laborers,” said senior police official Tariq Khilji.
He said those killed were all from outside the province—16 of them from Punjab and four from Sindh province. A local administrator told Newsweek three other men had been wounded in the attack, adding that the attack took place around 2:00 a.m.
Akbar Hussain Durrani, a senior administration official in the province, confirmed the incident. “The laborers were working on construction of a small local bridge,” he said. Hussain said some of the laborers reported being woken from their sleep by the sound of gunshots and screams.
“They had lined them up and shot them at point blank range after identifying their identity,” he said. Hussain said paramilitary troops were guarding the laborers but fled when confronted by a large number of armed attackers. He said insurgents have attacked non-Baloch settlers in the area in the past.
The bridge was being constructed in the Turbat region, an area that has been fraught with security threats, especially to non-Baloch, in the past.
A spokesman for BLF said the group would carry out more attacks until the province was given independence. “We will continue our fight against Pakistani occupation until [the] liberation of Balochistan,” Goran Baloch told AFP.
BLF became known for the kidnapping of American UNHCR worker John Solecki from Quetta in February 2009. Solecki was released on “humanitarian grounds” later the same year.
Human rights groups have long accused Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies of serious abuses in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but least populous province. The security services deny the allegations and say they are battling a fierce rebellion in the province.