The remains of 16 coal miners abducted by unidentified assailants in the former Khyber Agency nearly a decade ago were recovered from a mass grave in the area on Friday, an official said.
On Sept 9, 2011, as they were working their routine night shift in a coal mine of the Kala Khel area in Khyber Agency, 32 workers were forcibly taken away by armed men. Of these, 16 miners managed to escape over the next months, while the other 16 remained missing.
The 32 miners belonged to the Shangla district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Efforts to trace the abducted workers remained unsuccessful for nearly 10 years until their bodies were found today in a mass grave discovered at Toor Sapawar Pastawana area of KP’s Khyber tribal district.
Weeks after the kidnapping, sources had told Dawn that the miners’ captors had refused to release them even if ransom was paid.
Militants had demanded Rs1.5 million for release of the kidnapped workers and the local committee had agreed to pay the amount but later the kidnappers refused to release the labourers so the money was not paid, a tribal elder said at the time.
“Militants have threatened to kill the kidnapped labourers if government initiates any operation against them in the region,” he added.
Sarfaraz Khan, a spokesperson for the Shangla Coalmine Workers Association, said they reached Toor Sapawar Pastawana accompanied by political leaders after receiving information about the discovery of a mass grave on Thursday. A rescue operation was subsequently launched as rescuers dug up the grave.
Rescue workers initially recovered the remains of six miners, before finding 10 other bodies.
Khan said the miners appeared to have been killed soon after their abduction; some of their bodies were identified through their clothes, while some were recognisable through their physical features. A mass funeral will be held on Saturday for the miners whose remains were recovered today, the SCMWA spokesperson added.