At least 20 people have been shot dead and another three wounded after gunmen attacked a dam construction site in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan. No group has claimed responsibility.
The gunmen attacked a labor camp near the dam construction site in the Gobdan area of district Turbat at around 2 a.m. local time (2100 UTC, Friday), according government commissioner Pasand Khan Buledi.
Buledi said the large group of gunmen overpowered eight security guards and shot sleeping laborers before fleeing.
Akbar Hussain Durrani, a senior administration official in Baluchistan, said the workers had been building a small bridge.
"They had lined them up and shot them at point blank range after identifying their identity," Hussain said.
Sixteen of the dead were from Pakistan's Punjab province and four were from Sindh province.
'War against terrorists'
Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps is searching in the nearby mountains for the attackers, Sarfaraz Bugti, Home Minister of Baluchistan province, told news channel Geo TV.
"We will chase them down and (bring) them to justice," Bugti said.
"We need help in this war against terrorists. Alone, we cannot fight."
According to Baluchistan government spokesman, Jan Mohammad Buledi, the government will be offering the victims' families 1 million rupees ($9,800; 9,200 euros) each.
Demands for autonomy
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for Saturday's shooting, but insurgents are known to have have previously attacked non-Baluch settlers in the area. Nationalist and separatist Baluch groups want a substantial share of the province's rich oil, gas and mineral resource, and complete autonomy from Islamabad.
In a similar attack last October, eight laborers from Punjab were kidnapped and killed at a poultry farm, also in Baluchistan.
Human rights groups have long accused Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies of serious abuses in Baluchistan - Pakistan's largest but least populous province.
Security services have continued to deny the allegations, however, and say they are battling a fierce rebellion in the province.
ksb/jr (AFP, AP, dpa)