The Kharotabad Incident refers to the deaths of five Russian and Tajik citizens at a Frontier Corps (FC) checkpoint in Kharotabad, Quetta, Pakistan in May 2011. They were shot on the basis of reports that they were suicide bombers. A police surgeon who testified against the official account was later also shot dead.
On May 20, 2011, a group of 4 Russian citizens and 1 Tajik, (3 women and 2 men) had been travelling in a hired car in Balochistan, a province of Pakistan. They had passed through several police checkpoints and even been searched, but as they approached another checkpoint in the Kharotabad neighborhood of Quetta, they exited the car and proceeded on foot. A previous security checkpoint near the Quetta airport had sent a message to the place they were now that five Chechen foreigners were approaching the Kharotabad checkpoint. The Frontier Corps soldiers and Balochistan Police manning the Kharotabad checkpoint came to understand that they were about to be attacked by Chechen suicide bombers and acted accordingly. As the 5 travelers approached the checkpoint they were greeted with a volley of bullets and all fell to the ground. There was a long period during which no firing was done, and during which several of the victims were still alive and moving, including the two women who were seen holding hands. One of the injured women on the ground waved her arm and pleaded for mercy. It is during that time that TV crews and many officers arrived on the scene. Then another volley of bullets was fired at the group as they lay on the ground until no sign of life could be seen. This second volley of bullets was filmed and photographed by many members of the Press and by Pakistani TV crews. The corpses were then pulled away from each other with ropes tied around their wrists and ankles for it was feared that they wore suicide vests.
Initial news reports, that persistently only identified the five as Chechens, indicated that they were suicide bombers that were in possession of grenades and explosives and that they had hurled grenades at police. There was even a report of a Pakistani soldier killed in the "exchange" (a likely case of friendly fire). The day after the incident, the Quetta chief of police, Dawood Ahmad Junejo, stated in a Press conference that "The five Chechens were not killed in firing by security personnel, but in a bomb explosion". He further stated that "five mobile phones, two diaries, 48 fuses, seven detonators, a computer disc and CDs were recovered from the alleged suicide bombers".
Soon the media raised doubts over statements by security forces, with television footage showing a wounded woman waving her hand in the air as the security forces fired on her to finish her off.
The daily Dawn on Thursday quoted witnesses as saying that the suspects were unarmed, had put up no resistance to the security forces and appeared to be about to surrender when they were gunned down. Officials of a bomb disposal squad which searched the bodies after the shooting told Reuters that they found no explosives strapped to the bodies of the Chechens. They were unarmed and had no suicide jackets or explosives with them,” one of the officials said. “Five valid and two expired Russian passports were found in a ladies’ handbag lying with the bodies,” the second official said.
An autopsy performed on the bodies of the five Russians determined that all died from bullet wounds, and found no trace of explosives on their bodies. One of the women was 7 months pregnant.
Later news articles revealed that the five had been forced to bribe their way through police checkpoints, where the policemen had even asked for sexual favors from the young women. When a similar incident occurred at subsequent checkpoint, the group fled, asking their hired Pakistani driver to find a route to by-pass further checkpoints. This is when their driver made them get out of the car and continue on foot. The second checkpoint called the one where the shootout occurred to warn them about the car with the five Chechen foreigners. One article stated that Policemen had taken all their money from them [as a bribe]," he said. "Then they prayed at a mosque along with the women. Local people told them to lodge a complaint at the PFC check post against the police. The policemen, however, told the PFC people [by phone] that the five people were suicide bombers."
A police surgeon who performed an autopsy on the deceased, Dr. Baqir Shah, while testifying in court, rejected the claim that the foreigners had attacked the police with hand grenades.
Reactions in the Russian press
Although Pakistani TV broadcast film and pictures of the Russian passports found in possession of the victims, on May 18 the Russian Press, the Russian news service printed an article titled "No confirmation Pakistan militants were Russian – embassy". On May 22, the same news service reported that "The Russian embassy in Pakistan has so far received no official information on the identity of those killed.". Pravda did not cover the incident.
Identities of the victims
One of the Russian passports is in the name of Olga Shreder, born in Yakutsk in the Sakha Republic of the Russian Federation, on Jan 15, 1992. Her passport had been issued on Jan 3, 2006 and had expired on Jan 3, 2011. She was not an ethnic Chechen.
On May 31, 2011, the Vice Consul of Russian Consulate in Karachi, Mr Tural Dzhavadov, said that the five foreigners who died in Quetta were not Chechens. "Four of the five persons appear to be Russian nationals and one of them looks like a Tajik. They are not Chechens".
The police surgeon who conducted the autopsy on the victims of Kharotabad shooting and who contradicted the police version that the five had died as a result of a grenade blast that they had themselves detonated, has been attacked and hospitalised in Quetta, a few hours after he testified in court. A group of people pulled up outside a restaurant where he was eating and dragged the surgeon out and severely beat him up. He had to be rushed to the civil hospital.
A driver that had driven the five victims just before they were killed, retracted an earlier statement he had made, in which he had claimed the five were armed. “I lied under duress that the foreigners were carrying hand grenades. The police threatened me with dire consequence" he claimed.
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