Officials say Pakistani security forces have launched a major operation to hunt down gunmen who hijacked two buses and killed at least 19 passengers in the country’s southwest before fleeing.
Around 20 armed men hijacked two buses in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province and took at least 25 people with them into the mountains as hostages Friday, an official said.
Baluchistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti said the gunmen let around 50 passengers go. Security forces surrounded and battled the gunmen, and were able to recover six passengers, one of whom was wounded.
Baluchistan Information Minister Abdur Rahim Ziaratwal said the abductors killed the 19 passengers and left their bodies behind as they escaped deeper into the mountains. He said the assailants still hold some passengers, without giving an exact number, and that the operation to recover them is still underway.
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Baluchistan is the scene of a low-intensity insurgency by Baluch nationalists, separatists and other groups demanding more autonomy and a greater share of the province’s gas and mineral resources.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a stadium in Lahore where a cricket match was underway between Pakistan and Zimbabwe, Information Minister Pervez Rashid said on Geo TV.
He said the bomber had tried to get closer to the stadium but was stopped by police. The bomber then detonated his payload, killing a police officer and wounding six others.
Police had initially said the explosion, which was heard during the match, was caused by an electric transformer nearly a kilometer (mile) away from the Gaddafi Stadium.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, but the Pakistani Taliban, which has been at war with the government for years, has carried out past suicide bombings targeting civilians.