ISLAMABAD - Authorities in southwestern Pakistan say gunmen shot dead at least 20 bus passengers late on Friday.
The incident happened in the violence-hit Baluchistan province, where a group of heavily armed men wearing security forces' uniforms intercepted two buses in the remote Mastung district and seized 35 passengers.
The buses were travelling to the southern port city of Karachi from the provincial capital Quetta.
Provincial Interior Minister Sarfaraz Bugti told reporters that security forces rescued five of the abductees and have surrounded the mountainous area to “hunt down” the kidnappers and recover the remaining passengers.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the violence.
Pakistani authorities blame ethnic Baloch militants, waging a low-level insurgency in the resource-rich province, for being behind such incidents of violence. The militants claim to be fighting for more rights and control over Baluchistan’s natural resources.
Sunni Muslim extremist groups are also operating in the province and have carried out frequent attacks on the minority Hazara Shi'ite Muslims mostly settled in Quetta.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office has issued a statement quoting him as expressing grief over the loss of precious lives and asking authorities to capture the “perpetrators of this heinous crime at the earliest.”