Hundreds protest for fourth day alongside the bodies of coal miners killed in a brutal attack claimed by Daesh group as PM Imran Khan sends two ministers to try to convince them to end the sit-in.

Mourners carry photographs of victims near the coffins of miners who were killed in an attack by Daesh in the mountainous Machh area, during a sit-in protest in Quetta on January 6, 2021.
Mourners carry photographs of victims near the coffins of miners who were killed in an attack by Daesh in the mountainous Machh area, during a sit-in protest in Quetta on January 6, 2021. (AFP)

Hundreds of mourners in Pakistan have protested for a fourth day alongside the bodies of miners killed in a brutal attack claimed by the Daesh group, as Prime Minister Imran Khan urged them to bury their dead.

"This is systematic ethnic cleansing of Hazaras in Balochistan and our security forces are behaving like lame ducks, doing nothing," said Zainab Ahman, an activist among the mourners, on Wednesday. 

Two ministers, representing PM Khan, flew to Quetta on Wednesday to try to convince the mourners to end the protest.

Khan tweeted that the government was taking steps to prevent such attacks, but gave no details.

"Please bury your loved ones so their souls find peace," he added.

READ MORE: Gunmen kill Hazara coal miners in southwest Pakistan

Persecution of ethnic group 

Up to 2,500 people from the minority Shia Hazara community have since Sunday blocked a road on the outskirts of Quetta, capital of oil and gas-rich Balochistan province, demanding better protection.

There were also protests in the port city of Karachi.

Ten miners were kidnapped by gunmen from a remote colliery before being taken to nearby hills where most were shot dead.

Some were beheaded, said officials who did not want to be named.

The community's refusal to bury the bodies is symbolic in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where according to Islamic culture people should be buried within 24 hours, before the next sunset.

Ethnic Hazaras make up most of the Shia population in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan – the country's largest and poorest region, rife with ethnic, sectarian, and separatist insurgencies.

READ MORE: Pakistan's Hazara protest: Sit-in won't end until slain miners get justice

Daesh presence in region

Two of the miners were Afghans and their bodies returned home for burial, a local security official told AFP.

The attack was claimed by extremist group Daesh, according to SITE Intelligence, which monitors extremist activities worldwide.

Daesh is affiliated with the local militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which itself had links to outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan or TTP.

Pakistani officials have long denied the presence of Daesh in the country, but the group has claimed a number of attacks including a bombing at a vegetable market in 2019.

Source: AFP