QUETTA, Pakistan. (Reuters) - Gunmen on Wednesday shot dead six guards protecting a Spanish round-the-world cyclist in a violent and remote area of western Pakistan where a bus bomb killed 24 Shi‘ite pilgrims a day earlier, police said.
The cyclist, identified as Javier Colorado, suffered minor wounds, police said, but his family said he was unhurt. He had crossed into Pakistan’s western province of Baluchistan from Iran, they said. Six guards were wounded.
According to Colorado’s Facebook page, he was planning to cycle around the world. Early on Wednesday, he posted “Adios Iran, Hola Pakistan” on his page.
Colorado’s family also posted a message on his Facebook several hours after the attack:
“This is a message from Javier Colorado’s family. In the first place we want to thank the Spanish consulate in Pakistan for all their help. We’ve received a call from the embassy and they have informed us that Javier is well and not hurt. Today he will fly to Lahore, on the border with India. His initial intent is to continue his trip.”
Police said they did not know why Colorado 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.
In a statement, the Spanish Foreign Ministry reached out to Pakistan over the death of Colorado’s guards.
“The government of Spain wants to transmit to Pakistani authorities its profound concern and grief” over the deaths, said the statement.
Two young Czech women taking the same route by bus were kidnapped in March and are still being held.
Shafqat Anwar Shawani, the assistant police commissioner for Mastung district, said six security men and one attacker were killed on Wednesday.
In the same district on Tuesday, a bomb targeting a bus killed 29 Shi‘ite pilgrims, many of them women and children. Such sectarian attacks are increasingly common in Pakistan, where Shi‘ites make up 20 percent of the 180 million people.
On Wednesday, hundreds of Shi‘ites 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 in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan, killed around 200 people, mostly Shi‘ites, last year.
Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld and Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Nick Macfie