Unknown gunmen shot dead six labourers in a remote southwestern Pakistani town, officials said Friday, in the latest bout of violence to rock the restive region.
The murders took place overnight in Lajjey, about 170 kilometres (105 miles) southwest of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, where Islamist militants — including the Taliban — and ethnic Baloch separatists are active.
“Unidentified gunmen shot dead six labourers and wounded another, who is in critical condition,” local government official Hashim Ghilzai told AFP.
The labourers, from eastern Punjab province, were working on a mobile tower and were sleeping in tents at the site when the gunmen attacked, Ghilzai said, adding that “it appeared to be an act of terror”.
Local security official Tariq-ur-Rehman confirmed the incident and casualties.
No group has claimed responsibility for the killings, but Balochistan is home to a long-running ethnic Baloch insurgency aimed at seeking greater control over the province’s abundant mineral resources.
Separatist militants have previously targeted ethnic Punjabi and Sindhi labourers, who are largely considered outsiders in many parts of the province and viewed with deep suspicion.
Hundreds of soldiers and militants have been killed since the insurgency flared up in the mid-2000s.
Pakistan also regularly accuses its eastern neighbour India of funding and arming the separatist insurgents — a charge some analysts say is payback for Pakistan’s alleged backing of separatists in the Indian-administered part of the Kashmir region.
Balochistan, a desperately-poor province, is also riven by sectarian violence, with Islamist militants attacking Shiites, especially ethnic Hazaras.