Six guards protecting Spanish cyclist in Pakistan are shot dead

Cyclist assigned escort by security forces after crossing into violent region of Baluchistan from Iran suffers minor injuries

Gunmen shot dead six guards protecting a Spanish cyclist on Wednesday in a violent and remote area of western Pakistan where a bus bomb killed 24 Shia pilgrims a day earlier.

The cyclist, who suffered minor wounds, had crossed into Pakistan’s western province of Baluchistan from Iran, they said. Six guards were wounded.

Police said they did not know why he was cycling through such a dangerous area. He was assigned the escort by security forces because the province is plagued by kidnappers, Taliban militants, a violent separatist insurgency, sectarian killers, paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers.

Two young Czech women taking the same route by bus were kidnapped in March and are still being held.

The cyclist and his guards were travelling through Mastung district when gunmen attacked. “Six of our security men have been killed trying to save the Spanish cyclist, who has suffered minor injuries,” said Shafqat Anwar Shawani, the assistant police commissioner for Mastung district. One attacker was also killed, he said.

In the same district on Tuesday, a bomb targeting a bus killed 24 Shia pilgrims, many of them women and children. Such sectarian attacks are increasingly common in Pakistan, where Shias make up 20% of the 180 million people.

On Wednesday, hundreds of Shias protested against the bus bombing by sitting in the road alongside the bodies of the dead in the provincial capital of Quetta.

The community held similar protests demanding protection after bombings last year in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, killed about 200 people, mostly Shias.

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