HUB - Gunmen in Balochistan killed eight Punjabi labourers Sunday in what appeared to be an ethnically motivated attack, officials said.

The gunmen stormed a poultry farm in the early hours of Sunday in the town of Hub, some 640 kilometres southwest of Quetta.

They kidnapped 11 labourers, senior local administration official Fawad Soomro said, and questioned them over their ethnicities.

“They blindfolded the nine workers belonging to Punjab province and shot them while setting the two Baloch workers free,” he said.

He added that the freed Baloch workers made their way to a local police station to report the crime.

Akbar Harifal, another senior district administration official, confirmed the incident.

“Hub is a developing industrial town where most of the workforce comes from Karachi and from cities in Punjab province,” he said.

According to TV reports, an injured man was also found by police along with the eight dead bodies.

Injured labourer who is identified as Azhar Hussain told the media that he and his other companions belonged to Muzaffargarh and Dera Ismail Khan. “We are flood victims and had arrived in Sakran for labour work,” he said.

The injured man told the police officials that he and the killed people were labourers who were kidnapped by eight unknown militants, while working on a poultry farm in Sakran area on Saturday afternoon.

“The kidnappers abducted me and several other labourers, and took us to some unknown place where they asked us about our identities,” TV channels quoted the injured man as saying.

He said that he and eight other labourers came from Punjab while two belonged to Balochistan.

“The kidnappers shot all Punjabi labourers including me on Sunday morning, and set the two Baloch men free,” he said.

He said that the attackers fled the scene after spraying bullets at them, thinking all of them dead, but he survived the attack.

The injured labourer said they had no enmity with anyone.

No group has claimed responsibility for the incident yet. Police termed the attack an incident of target killing.

Identities of the deceased were yet to be ascertained.

Baloch militants have killed several settlers from other provinces, particularly from Punjab, as part of their campaign against the state in the past.

Tension gripped the area after the abduction and subsequent killings. Police said they were investigating the case and trying to catch the militants involved in the slayings.

President condemns Hub incident

President Mamnoon Hussain strongly condemned the tragic incident of killing of labourers near Hub.

In a statement in Islamabad, the president extended condolences to the families of the bereaved. He directed the Balochistan government to investigate the matter.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also strongly condemned the tragic incident in Hub in which eight workers were found dead and directed Balochistan government to take action against the responsible.

In a statement, the prime minister extended condolences to the families of the bereaved and directed the provincial government to hunt down those responsible for this heinous crime.

Balochistan Chief Minister Malik Baloch condemned the killings and directed the police to investigate the incident.

In a statement issued on Sunday morning, Malik Baloch termed the incident tragic and vowed that the culprits would be arrested. He ordered the concerned authorities to arrest the culprits behind this incident as soon as possible.

Resource-rich but poor Balochistan is in the midst of its fifth uprising against Pakistani rule.

Its roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth.

Separatists also chafe at the outsize influence of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, and the influx of migrant workers from other parts of the country.

Last week the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that more than 300,000 people including religious and ethnic minorities had left Balochistan over the past 10 years due to rising unrest.

Hundreds of soldiers and militants have been killed in fighting since the insurgency was revived in 2004.

Rights groups allege security forces have also fuelled bloodshed by picking up non-militant separatists, including academics and students, torturing them and dumping their bodies on the streets.

The current insurgency gained in intensity after the 2006 killing of 79-year-old Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a revered figure for many rebels.