Police: Gunmen kill 16 people in southwest Pakistan in apparent ethnic-based attacks

By Abdul Sattar, AP
Saturday, August 14, 2010

Police: 16 die in ethnic-based attacks in Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan — Gunmen targeted non-ethnic Baluchis traveling on a bus and painting a house in two attacks in southwestern Pakistan on Saturday, killing 16 people and wounding eight, police said.

The attacks are sure to add to ethnic tensions in Baluchistan province, where a nationalist movement led by armed ethnic Baluch groups has long sought greater provincial autonomy from the central government. They may have been inspired by Pakistan’s marking Saturday of its creation and independence from Britain in 1947.

In the first attack, gunmen stopped the bus in Aab-e-Ghum, a town 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Quetta, the provincial capital. It carried Baluch and non-Baluch passengers, but the attackers identified those from the eastern Punjab province, forced them off the bus and shot them, police official Ismail Kurd said.

The second attack occurred in Quetta, when gunmen burst into a home and killed six Punjabi laborers who were painting it. The gunmen also wounded three other laborers, senior police official Hamid Shakeel said.

Police would not speculate on who was behind the attacks or whether they were linked. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and it was unclear exactly how many gunmen were involved.

Baluchistan is a rugged region with a lengthy and porous border with Afghanistan and Iran. It is Pakistan’s largest province, covering 44 percent of the country. It is also the most sparsely populated, with some 6.5 million people, around half of whom are believed to be of Baluch origin.

A long-running insurgency by Baluchis feeds off resentment against the central government, which they say exploits the resource-rich region but leaves them to wallow in poverty.

There is particular tension between Baluchistan and Punjab, which is the most populous and powerful province in Pakistan. But the Baluchis also have had tensions with other ethnic groups inside the southwest province, such as the Pashtun and the Hazara.

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