QUETTA: Two assailants on a motorcycle Wednesday shot dead three welders at a shop in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, in what police said was an ethnically motivated attack.

The city is the capital of Baluchistan province, home to a long-running nationalist insurgency aimed at seeking greater control over the province's rich oil, gas and mineral resources.

Baluch separatist gunmen have previously targeted outsiders seen as settlers.

"Unknown gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead three welders at a shop and fled," senior police official Abdul Razzaq Cheema told AFP.

He said it appeared to be an "ethnic" killing as the victims were from Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, which has dominated the country's affairs since independence from Britain in 1947.

Aitzaz Goraya, another senior police official confirmed the shooting and casualties.

Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Rebels began their fifth insurgency against the state in 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting.

Pakistan accuses neighbouring India of funding and arming the rebels -- a charge some analysts say is payback for Pakistan's perceived interference in Kashmir.

The desperately poor province is also riven by sectarian strife and Islamist violence in its northern Pashtun belt, with middle-class Baluch increasingly viewing independence as their only hope for a more liberal and secular state.