ISLAMABAD/QUETTA, 11 March 2006 — Twenty-eight people were killed and seven wounded when a vehicle carrying a wedding party hit an anti-tank mine in Balochistan province yesterday. Most of those killed were women and children. The blast ripped through a trailer being pulled by a tractor on a remote mountain trail near the town of Rakhni, around 300 kilometers east of Quetta, a provincial spokesman said. The vehicle was leading toward the town of Bekar when the blast took place.
Most of those killed belong to Masoori Bugti tribe which has revolted against Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.
Officials blamed the attack on “terrorist” tribal militants who are waging an insurgency to win more autonomy and a greater share in the gas-rich region’s vast natural resources.
“An anti-tank mine was planted in a stream and when the vehicle crossed the water there was a very heavy blast, killing 28 people on the spot and injuring seven,” Balochistan government spokesman Raziq Bugti told AFP.
At least 35 people were traveling on the trailer, officials said. “We believe 20 of the dead were women and children, seven were men and another is unknown. It is difficult to get the exact toll because many of the bodies were blown to pieces,” Bugti said.
“There are still some bodies lying under the water but we are facing problems in retrieving them because they are traditional people who do not want unknown males to touch the bodies of their women,” he said.
The dirt track where the explosion happened is often used by army and paramilitary forces and may have been targeted for that reason, officials said.
Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said “terrorist elements” trying to disrupt the federal government’s efforts to develop the region were behind the blast.
“The heavy loss of life including women and children in a land mine explosion in Balochistan is highly condemnable,” Sherpao said in a statement.
The attackers’ “sole aim is to destabilize the province at the behest of their foreign instigators to undermine national unity and keep the province mired in poverty and backwardness,” he said.
“The incident should also serve as an eye-opener for those elements who try to legitimize anti-state activities of certain tribal chieftains and their armed loyalists,” Sherpao added.
Pakistan has moved thousands of troops into Balochistan to counter ethnic Baloch tribal militants blamed for regular attacks on gas pipelines, railroads and military and government installations. A man was killed and seven others were injured by land mine blasts in the province on Thursday.
Three Chinese engineers and their driver were shot dead in Balochistan on Feb. 15.
The tribesmen want some of the proceeds from the sparsely populated province’s stores of natural gas and also oppose the creation of military garrisons in the area.
Security officials admit there has been a rise in the violence since the government ordered a fresh crackdown in December 2005 after rockets hit the town of Kohlu during a visit by President Pervez Musharraf.
Meanwhile, militants loyal to Nawab Bugti fired rockets at the Sui gas plant. “Rockets hit well No.12 of the plant and as a result gas transmission was suspended for some time,” District Coordinating Officer Abdul Samad Lasi said.