Unidentified gunmen late Friday stormed two passenger coaches in southwest Pakistan, killing at least 19 people, officials said.
“The attackers forced the buses to stop, abducted more than two dozen passengers, and then shot at least 19 dead,” said Ismail Ibrahim, a senior official in troubled Baluchistan province.
The buses were en route to the port city of Karachi when they were stormed in Mastung district, according to Akbar Harifal, deputy district commissioner.
Harifal said security forces had rescued five passengers after an exchange of fire. It was unclear exactly how many passengers had been on the buses.
“Police and paramilitary have cordoned off the area and an exchange of fire is still ongoing,” he said.
Sarfaraz Bugti, the province’s home minister, later told AFP that 15 to 20 attackers armed with guns and other automatic rifles were involved in the attack.
“Security forces are after them, they are on the run,” he said.
A statement from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office condemned the attack.
Resource-rich Baluchistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, but its roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack but Baluch separatists demanding greater autonomy have been waging an insurgency for years and the province is also riven by sectarian strife and Islamist violence.
Rebels began their fifth insurgency against the state in 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting since then.
Human rights groups allege the security forces commit abuses, accusing them of picking up non-militant separatists — including academics and students — torturing them and dumping their bodies on the streets.