MASTUNG - Two masked assailants on a motorcycle threw acid on two girls aged 14 and 15 at a shopping mall in the town of Mastung, a day after three others were wounded in Quetta in a similar incident, raising concerns that this could be the act of religious extremists.

District Police Officer Rauf Bareech said armed militants threw acid on the faces of the girls in the Chandni Road area of Mastung city.

“The women were shopping in the market when they were attacked,” Bareech stated, adding the assailants sped away on their motorcycle after the attack. “Acid was sprayed on the faces of the women through a syringe,” he said.

The injured women were rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment. Later, they were shifted to Quetta’s Bolan Medical Complex as there was no specialised burn treatment facility in Mastung. “They are being treated in the burn ward of BMC,” Dr Hidayatullah, a doctor on duty, said.

On Monday, two unknown assailants, riding a motorbike, threw acid on three girls in their twenties in Quetta when they were also returning from a market, the city’s police chief, Abdur Razzaq Cheema, said. He said the girls had suffered three to 11 percent burns on their faces.

Acid attacks are common in Pakistan with scores of such assaults taking place each year. Victims are left with horrendous injuries and are often blinded.

Their plight became the focus of a 40-minute Oscar-winning documentary, “Saving Face” by a Pakistani woman, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, in 2012.

Just like Monday’s attack, this time also the miscreants, riding a motorcycle, sprayed acid on the faces of the girls with a syringe, the police said.

The two incidents have sent waves of concern in the province with a senior security official admitting that the two attacks could be acts of religious extremists.

“We are still investigating the incidents to ascertain the motive behind these attacks. But two similar incidents in two days show the attacks are random aimed at sending across a message,” he said.

Though the province has been hit hard by militant, separatist and sectarian violence in recent times, acid attacks on women are rare.

Both the incidents took place outside a jewellery shop when men on motorcycles attacked them with acid using syringes.

Police could not find any clues, nor has any group or organisation claimed responsibility for the incident. In both the incidents, perpetrators managed to flee from the scene.

“The attack aimed at terrorising the girls. It is the first ever incident in Mastung district,” Nazir Langov said.

“Mehvish received burn injuries on her face, while Sehrish sustained injuries on her neck. However, they are stable and will be discharged soon,” he said.

The modus operandi was the same as Monday’s attack as the masked men appeared on motorbikes and used syringes to spray acid on the faces of the girls in the market. The victims, like those attacked in the previous incident, had stated that they had no enmity with anyone. “We had never been warned or threatened. We do not know who behind the attack is,” the police said quoting the victims who were too traumatised to speak.

The victims of Monday’s attack also said they had no enmity with anyone, nor had they been threatened. The two sisters refused to lodge an FIR as their family said they do not want to pursue their case. High officials in Quetta say the families of the victims are not cooperating with investigators, making it difficult for the police to trace the culprits. “The victims of the Quetta attack refused to lodge an FIR and give complete statements,” Home Secretary Akbar Durrani said.

Durrani said it could be a family dispute or the act of any other group. “Extremist groups claim responsibility when they carry out attacks,” he said.