Two paramilitary soldiers and five insurgents were killed in gunbattles on Tuesday in Balochistan province, officials said, highlighting the challenges to a huge Chinese investment project.
The first clash was in Gawadar district, where Beijing has taken over a deep-water seaport that will be the starting point of a $46 billion “economic corridor” of roads, pipelines and rail links to Kashgar in western China.
Insurgents fired rockets at the air traffic control tower of Pasni airport in Gawadar district late on Monday, causing some damage but no casualties, paramilitary Frontier Corps spokesman Manzoor Ahmed told AFP.
Security forces mounted a search after the attack and this culminated in a gunbattle with insurgents in the Zarin Bogh area.
“Two soldiers were martyred and an insurgent was killed and another captured in a clash with security forces,” Ahmed said.
Provincial home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani confirmed the clash.
Sarbaz Baloch, a spokesman for the Baloch Liberation Army rebel group, claimed responsibility for attack on the airport in a call to journalists.
Separately, insurgents attacked security forces in the Mashqay area of Awaran district, with troops killing four insurgents, security officials told AFP.
Earlier this month the Balochistan Liberation Front claimed an attack in the province that left 20 construction workers from elsewhere in Pakistan dead, the bloodiest separatist incident since 2006.
Resource-rich Balochistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, but its roughly seven million inhabitants have long complained they do not receive a fair share of its gas and mineral wealth. Rebels began their fifth insurgency against the state in 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting since then. The desperately poor province is also riven by sectarian strife and Islamist violence.