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Gunmen kill 11 Shia miners in southwest Pakistan

Members of the minority Hazara Shia Muslim community burn tires during a protest after the killing of 11 workers of their community, in Quetta, on January 3, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Unidentified gunmen have killed at least 11 coal miners in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan, after abducting them.

Khalid Durrani, a government official in the area, said the attack took place in Machh town, located 60 kilometers southeast of the provincial capital Quetta, before dawn on Sunday.

"Dead bodies of the 11 miners have been taken to a local hospital”, he said, adding that all the victims were members of the minority Hazara Shia Muslim community.

He further said the miners were attacked while they were sleep, adding that the armed men took them to a secluded area in the nearby hills where they were later killed.

Abid Salim, another top government official in the area, said the gunmen tied the miners’ hands and feet and “brutally slaughtered them with some sharp instrument".

He also said some of the victims were beheaded.

Hours later, the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group claimed responsibility for the deadly assault.

Police say Pakistani paramilitary forces had launched a search operation to trace the assailants who have fled the scene.  

Following the attack, dozens of local people and family members blocked a main road in the area and set tires on fire, demanding protection.

Sunday’s violence was largely condemned across the country.

Liaqat Shahwani, a spokesman for the provincial government, who confirmed the attack, termed it as an “act of terrorism”.

In a post on Twitter, Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the killings, terming the incident as “yet another cowardly (and) inhumane act of terrorism”.

He also noted the families of the victims would be taken care of by the government and the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

This is the first major attack targeting the Hazaras since April last year when a bomb blast at a market in Quetta killed at least 20 people.

Shia Muslims of the Hazara minority frequently come under attack by terrorists active in Balochistan.

In 2013, three separate bombings killed more than 200 people in different Hazara neighborhoods.

Many Hazaras originally fled from Afghanistan during decades of conflict in the country.

Nearly half a million now live in and around Quetta.

Quetta, the largest city of Balochistan, has seen several bombings and shooting attacks over the past years.

Pakistan’s restive and mineral-rich Balochistan province was rocked by a series of terrorist attacks in late 2016, raising fears about an increasing presence of armed militants in the area, including terrorists linked to Daesh.

Separatist militants in the province have also been engaged in a decades-long campaign against the central government.

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