QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — 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.
The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement on its website. The Sunni militant group has repeatedly targeted Pakistan’s minority Shiites in recent years.
Moazzam Ali Jatoi, an official with the Levies Force, which serves as police and paramilitary in the area, said the attackers identified the miners as being from the Shiite Hazara community and took them to up into nearby mountains for execution, leaving others unharmed. He said six of the miners died at the scene, and five who were critically wounded died on the way to a hospital.
Police video of the bodies revealed the miners were blindfolded and had their hands tied behind their backs before being shot. The attack took place near the Machh coal field, about 48 kilometers (30 miles) east of the provincial capital Quetta.
News of the killings quickly spread 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 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 cared for.
Shiite cleric Nasir Abbas said protests over the incident would be organized nationwide. Political and religious leaders from different segments of the population also expressed their grief and sorrow over the killings.
Pakistan’s Hazara community has been targeted many times in recent years by Sunni militant groups, including the Islamic State group. IS has also declared war on minority Shiites in neighboring Afghanistan, and has claimed a number of vicious attacks since emerging there in 2014.
A suicide bombing at an open-air market in Quetta in April 2019 killed twenty people. At the time, IS said it had targeted Shiites and elements of the Pakistani army.
Last January, IS claimed responsibility for a powerful explosion that ripped through a mosque in Quetta during evening prayers. The blast killed a senior police officer and 13 others, and wounded another 20 worshipers.
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.