QUETTA: At least 24 Shia pilgrims — including 10 women — were killed in a gun and suicide attack on the restive Pakistan-Iran border, officials said yesterday, the latest assault on the beleaguered minority sect.
The attack late Sunday night came when a bus carrying Pakistani pilgrims returning from a visit to holy Muslim sites in Iran stopped at a restaurant in the Pakistani town of Taftan in troubled Baluchistan province.
“In total 24 Shia pilgrims including 10 women were killed in the attack. There are 13 others including eight women and five men who were wounded,” Akbar Durrani, a province official,said.
“Four suicide bombers attacked the restaurants in Taftan,” which is around 700 kilometres southwest of the provincial capital Quetta, he added. Authorities airlifted the bodies to the northwestern city of Kohat where most of the victims were from, Durrani said. No group has yet come forward to claim the attack.
Two devastating bombings in Quetta killed nearly 200 people last year and were claimed by banned Sunni extremist organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has links to Al Qaeda.
Nearly 1,000 Shias have been killed in the past two years in Pakistan, a heavy toll on the community that makes up roughly 20 percent of the country’s population of 180 million, which is predominantly Muslim.
In a separate incident yesterday, two paramilitary soldiers were killed and three others were injured in an IED blast in Mashkay town in Awaran district of Baluchistan.
Resource-rich Baluchistan is home to a long-running separatist conflict that was revived in 2004, with nationalists seeking to stop what they see as the exploitation of the region’s natural resources and alleged rights abuses.
Attacks by separatist insurgents on security forces are also common. And in further bloodshed, a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden pickup truck into a military checkpoint, this time on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, killing at least three soldiers and himself, officials said.
The attack took place on Miranshah-Datta Khel road, some 15 kilometres east of Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal district, and brought the death toll from militant violence around the country to 58 in the last 24 hours.