GUNMEN shot dead five people in attacks on two buses as rebels in Pakistan’s troubled province of Baluchistan staged a strike to mark the anniversary of a tribal leader’s death, officials say.

There was a “complete strike” in provincial capital Quetta and several other districts on Sunday, local police chief Wazir Khan said, with shops and markets closed and traffic brought to a standstill.

The halt was called by Baluchistan Republican Party (BRP) leader Brahmdagh Bugti to mark the sixth anniversary of the death of his grandfather Akbar Bugti, a rebel chieftain killed in his mountain hideout during a military operation in 2006.

In the southeastern district of Bolan, gunmen opened fire on two buses late Sunday, killing five people including two women, police official Iftikhar Bugti said.

BRP spokesman Sarbaz Baluch claimed responsibility for the shooting.

“We had launched an appeal for a complete strike and the buses bound for southern Sindh and central Punjab provinces had ignored our appeal. We therefore opened fire on them,” he said.

Separately three Shi’ite Muslims were killed in a sectarian drive-by shooting on Monday, police officer Zakir Ali said.

Police and residents said Sunday’s strike was almost completely across the impoverished and insurgency-hit province, with 21 out of 30 districts affected.

People blocked roads and erected barricades in several places on highways leading to Iran, the southern port of Karachi and other important cities, they said.

The strike was endorsed by other political and religious parties in the province, with around 300 people demonstrating in Quetta to demand the extradition and trial of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for ordering the operation in 2006.

Baluch rebels rose up in 2004, demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the oil, gas and mineral resources in the region, one of the most deprived in Pakistan.

Bomb blasts and attacks on police and security forces are frequent in the province, which is also a flashpoint for sectarian violence involving majority Sunni and minority Shi’ite Muslims that has left thousands dead since the 1980s.

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