Gunmen abduct and kill nine bus passengers in Pakistan’s Balochistan

Gunmen killed nine passengers after abducting them from a bus in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province, senior police officials confirmed on Saturday.

The incident took place in the mountainous Nushki district on Friday night when the bus was travelling from the provincial capital of Quetta to Taftan, a town bordering Iran.

The unidentified gunmen, 10-12 in number, intercepted the bus and took away the nine men after checking their identity cards and determining they were from the eastern province of Punjab, police officer Abdullah Mengal said. "All of them were travelling to Taftan.”

The corpses of the victims, shot at close range, were found under a bridge nearby an hour and half after the abduction, Mr Musakhel said.

No organisation has taken responsibility for the attack so far.

In a separate attack on the same highway, unidentified gunmen fired on a car that tried to force its way through a blockade, killing one passenger and wounding at least four. Dawn reported that both the attacks took place at the same blockade.

Prime minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the killings and vowed to punish the perpetrators.

“We stand with the bereaved families in this hour of grief,” he said, according to Radio Pakistan.

Balochistan has long been a hotbed of ethnic insurgent groups that accuse the Pakistani state, dominated by Punjabis, of denying them their fair share of the region’s rich natural resources.

Baloch insurgents have previously claimed responsibility for similar killings in the region, which is home to the strategic Gwadar sea port being developed by neighbouring China. The insurgents have also targeted Chinese nationals and their interests.

Beijing has invested heavily in regional development projects in Balochistan as part of its $65bn pledge to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Additional reporting by agencies