Security official says three-day operation in Mastung aimed to release abducted Chinese couple but they are still missing
Pakistani forces on Sunday said they had killed around a dozen Islamic State militants in a three-day raid prompted by intelligence reports that the group was holding two recently kidnapped Chinese nationals.
The operation took place in the Mastung district of Balochistan province and targeted the hideout cave of a group of I.S. commanders, a senior security official told AFP. “Some 12-13 I.S. commanders have been killed after intense gun-battles and the area was cleared late Saturday,” he said, but added that the Chinese pair were not recovered from the scene despite the presence of the vehicle used in their kidnapping nearby.
I.S. has been making inroads in the country through alliances with local militant outfits such as the sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar groups, though its presence is generally downplayed by the government.
Security forces also seized six suicide jackets, a cache of ammunition, explosives, detonators, solar panels and food rations, a second Pakistani security official told AFP, adding the cave was a base used by I.S. to plan attacks across the country.
The two Chinese workers were abducted last month in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, raising safety concerns for Beijing’s multi-billion-dollar investments in the country.
One Chinese woman managed to escape as the men began firing in the air to scare off onlookers. A passerby, Muhammad Zahir, was shot as he tried to prevent the abduction.
Balochistan has been plagued by Islamist and separatist insurgencies since 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting. But a greater push towards peace and development by authorities has reduced overall levels of violence in recent years.