By Gul Yousufzai
Gunmen in Pakistan killed 20 labourers as they slept early on Saturday, a government official said, in what appeared to be the latest violence by separatist rebels battling for control of resources in gas- and mineral-rich Baluchistan province.
Rebels have been fighting a low-intensity insurgency in the province for decades, demanding an end to what they see as the exploitation of their resources by people from other parts of Pakistan.
The workers killed at a construction site 15 km (9 miles) from the town of Turbat were mostly from outside Baluchistan which suggested the Baluch rebels were responsible, said provincial interior minister Akbar Hussain Durrani.
“All were sleeping in their camp when they were targeted,” he said.
Three wounded survivors said the gunmen opened fire on the sleeping men with automatic weapons, then escaped on motorcycles, he said.
There was no claim of responsibility.
The separatists frequently kidnap and kill civilians from other parts of the country and also attack gas facilities, infrastructure and security posts.
Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran is Pakistan’s poorest and most thinly populated province.
Human rights groups say the security agencies often arrest ethnic Baluch, torture them and dump their bodies in a policy that has become known as “Kill and Dump.”
Some families say that children as young as 11 have been arrested and their bodies later found in shallow graves.
Baluchistan is also home to Taliban insurgents, drug smugglers, kidnapping rings, sectarian militants, and government-backed paramilitary death squads.