MANSEHRA: In what appears to be a replay of the Harban Nala attack in Kohistan district, gunmen killed 19 people after establishing their identity through their identity cards at the Babusar Top Pass in Mansehra on Thursday. “The terrorists made the passengers disembark from four vehicles and shot 19 among them, before fleeing the scene,” District Coordination Officer (DCO) Amber Ali Khan told the media.
However, later reports aired by TV channels said 22 passengers were pulled out from three buses and shot dead.Amber Ali Khan, who was the first officer to reach the site of the carnage along with District Police Officer (DPO) Sher Akbar, said the identity of nine victims had been established and one each was from Karachi and Rawalpindi, two each from Diamer and Astore and three from Gilgit.
The attack took place between 6:00am and 7:00am in the morning when terrorists intercepted the vehicles in the remote mountainous area.
Amber Ali Khan said Babusar Top and the Harban Nala attack in Kohistan in which 20 persons were killed earlier this year were the outcome of a similar modus operandi and almost all the victims were Shias.
The district administration sent a medical team, including doctors and paramedics, to Naran to perform the post-mortem of the victims there. The bodies were later shifted to Chilas, headquarters of Diamer district in Gilgit-Baltistan, for the onward journey to the villages of the deceased. Sources said these were target killings and the attackers were wearing military uniforms.
The convoy of vehicles, which came under attack, had left Naran for Gilgit-Baltistan at 3:00am in the morning on Thursday via the Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad road.
The transporters had diverted their passenger vehicles from the Karakoram Highway to the Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad road following the Harban Nala attack on February 28 this year as they felt this was a safer route. Concern about the insecurity on the Karakoram Highway had increased due to the Harban Nala attack.
The Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad road is open during the summers and often closed in winters due to snowfall and it is also not in good condition at certain places. But it is said to be a shorter route than the Karakoram Highway.
Reports said the buses were being driven in a convoy for security purposes and carrying passengers from Rawalpindi and other areas to Gilgit and Astore.
Meanwhile, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack through one of its spokesmen who claimed 25 passengerswere killed near the Lolusar Pass in the attack. Mohammad, who normally works as a spokesman for the TTP’s Darra Adamkhel and Khyber Agency branch, didn’t say why the Shia passengers were shot dead.
It may be noted that Tariq Afridi, the TTP commander for Darra Adamkhel and Khyber Agency, was in the past associated with the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba militant organisation.
APP adds from Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the incident of firing at buses in Babusar, killing several passengers. He called for a report into the unfortunate incident and directed the law enforcing agencies to bring the culprits to justice. He also directed best treatment for the injured.