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Armed men have attacked a dam construction site in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province, killing at least 20 workers and wounding three, according to a senior government official.

Pasand Khan Buledi, commissioner of Makran division, said a large group of armed men attacked a labour camp near the dam construction site in the Gobdan area of Turbat district early on Saturday.

Buledi said 16 of the dead were from Pakistan's Punjab province and four were from Sindh province.

He said the eight guards, all from Balochistan, were unharmed in the attack.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Marri tribesmen and fighters from the Bugti tribe have been battling Pakistani forces in Balochistan for years now [GALLO/GETTY]

Buledi said the attackers overpowered the eight security guards, shot the sleeping labourers and managed to escape.

Malik Baloch, chief minister of Balochistan, who was on visit to the port city Gawadar, reached Turbat early morning on Saturday after hearing of the attack and called a high-level security session.

He ordered that the bodies of the slain workers be transported by helicopter to their native villages.

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Together with Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister, Baloch also condemned the attack and ordered a full investigation.

Sarfaraz Bugti, Balochistan home minister, told private satellite news channel Geo TV that Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps was searching in the nearby mountains for the attackers.

"We will chase them down and bring them to justice,'' he said. "We need help in this war against terrorists. Alone, we cannot fight.''

Jan Mohammad Buledi, a provincial spokesperson, said the government would offer the families of the deceased nearly $10,000 each.

Balochistan is the scene of a low-intensity insurgency by nationalist and separatist Baloch groups who want substantial share of revenue from gas and mineral resources and complete autonomy from Islamabad.

Saturday's violence was the deadliest recent attack to target civilians in the region.

In September 2012, 10 labourers and five tribesmen in a labour camp were shot to death in Balochistan's Khuzdar district.

With additional reporting by Saadullah Akhtar in Quetta, Balochistan

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies