Gunmen shot dead eight people in separate incidents in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan on Saturday, amid protests over the killing of three local leaders this week, police said.
Gunmen riding on a motorbike shot dead a police official in Quetta, the capital of gas-rich province, senior police officer Rana Khalid told AFP.
In another drive-by shooting gunmen killed one person and wounded another, he said.
“Both incidents could be linked to a three-day strike being observed in the province” since the bodies of three separatist politicians were found on Thursday, he said.
Police also found bodies of six employees at a coalmine in Margat, a town on the outskirts of Quetta.
“The victims who were abducted on Friday, were killed before dawn on Saturday,” local police officer Jaffar Hussain said.
“They were shot dead,” he said, adding that all had bullet wounds to the head.
Meerak Baloch, spokesman for a shadowy group called the Baluch Liberation Army, telephoned AFP to claim responsibility for the Margat killings, saying that those targeted were people from Punjab and North West Frontier Province.
“We wanted to give a message to the ethnic Pushtuns from NWFP also because soldiers in the paramilitary Frontier Corps used batons against our women protesters in Quetta,” he said.
Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, is rife with militant and sectarian violence.
Riots broke out on Thursday after the bodies of three dissident Baluch politicians were dumped on the outskirts of the southwestern town of Turbat, near the Iranian border.
During a strike in Turbat angry mobs on Saturday torched three banks and two government buildings, including the mayor’s office, said police officer Ayaz Baloch.
The three slain politicians were identified as the head of the Baluchistan National Party (BNP), Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, his deputy Lala Munir Baloch, and Sher Mohammad, deputy secretary general of the Baluchistan Republican Party (BRP).
The United Nations in a statement on Friday expressed “serious concern” over the killings.
The late BNP chief played an important role in securing the release of American UN official John Solecki last Saturday, two months after Solecki was abducted in Quetta, the party official said.