Gunmen Kill 7 Barbers In Pakistan's Volatile Baluchistan Province

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Attackers fatally shot seven barbers before dawn Thursday in a home in a volatile province in southwestern Pakistan, police and a government official said.

The killings occurred near the port city of Gwadar in Baluchistan province, police official Mohsin Ali said. All of the barbers were from Punjab province and lived and worked together.

Provincial Interior Minister Ziaullah Langau condemned the killings and said police were investigating who was behind the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Separatists in Baluchistan have often killed workers and others from Punjab as part of a campaign to force them to leave the province, which for years has experienced a low-level insurgency by the Baluchistan Liberation Army and other groups demanding independence from the central government in Islamabad. Islamic militants also have a presence in the province.

The government says it has quelled the separatist insurgency, but violence in the province has persisted.

Police said they believe the attack on the barbers was not related to their jobs. Last month, the Baluchistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for killing nine people from Punjab province who were abducted from a bus on a highway in Baluchistan, saying it had information that spies were on the bus.

Separatists have also targeted people from Punjab working on coal-mine projects in Baluchistan.

In January, gunmen killed six barbers in a former stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban in the country’s northwest near the Afghanistan border. Pakistani militants years ago banned the trimming of beards and haircuts in Western styles.