Gunmen kill 18 in southwest Pakistan: officials

Unidentified gunmen in southwest Pakistan killed 18 people late Friday who were trying to illegally cross into neighboring Iran in three vehicles, officials said.

"Motorcycle riding gunmen stopped their vehicles and forced them to come out with their hands up. 18 people have been killed and two were injured," Mohammad Aslam Tarin, a senior government official told AFP.

The incident took place in the far-flung Kechh district, some 1250 kilometres (780 miles) southwest of Quetta, the main town of of Pakistan's insurgency hit Baluchistan province, close to the Iranian border.

"We have started investigating but the motive of the attack is still unclear," Tarin said, adding that rescue teams have been sent to the area to recover the dead bodies.

Gunmen managed to flee the scene, he added.

"These 20 people were trying to cross the border and wanted to enter Iran," he said.

A tribal police official in the area confirmed the incident and death toll. Though no group has yet claimed responsibility, such attacks are usually blamed on Baluch nationalist groups fighting for a greater provincial autonomy.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed since Baluch rebels rose up in 2004 against the federal Pakistani government, demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the resources in the region.

The province is also a hotbed of Islamist militancy and sectarian violence between majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslim communities.

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