Eight separatists, two soldiers killed during anti-terrorist operation.
A fierce gun battle killed at least eight separatists and two paramilitary soldiers during an ongoing anti-terrorist operation in Balochistan on Wednesday, officials said.
The deaths come as a roadside bomb attack in a restive northwestern Pakistani region near the Afghan border claimed three lives, including those of two children, officials said.
The firefight in Balochistan province erupted during a raid, the military said. “The security forces raided a compound as part of the ongoing operation… which triggered a gunfight between the paramilitary Frontier Corps troops and the terrorists, killing eight rebels and two soldiers,” said spokesman Muhammad Manzoor. He said three militants were killed in a similar raid on Tuesday. A paramilitary lieutenant colonel and a solider were also injured.
Manzoor said those killed on Wednesday belonged to different proscribed Baloch separatist organizations but did not disclose their names.
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. The province is also riven by sectarian strife and Islamist violence.
Meanwhile, the roadside bomb was the third attack in as many days in the Mohmand tribal region, one of seven such semi-autonomous districts where the military has been battling Al Qaeda and Taliban-linked militants for over a decade.
Two separate bomb attacks on Monday had killed at least three people and wounded two others including a senior Pakistan Army official. “An improvised explosive (IED) device planted along the roadside exploded as a vehicle carrying five people including a driver passed by, killing two children aged eight and 10 and the driver on the spot,” said senior local administration official Naveed Akbar. He said two passengers were injured in the attack.
“The security agencies are investigating the incident as the target of the attack is unclear,” Akbar said, adding dozens of IEDs have been planted along roads in Mohmand.
The Army has intensified its offensive since the Taliban’s massacre of 153 people, 134 of them children, in a school in Peshawar last December. Overall, levels of militant-linked violence have dropped dramatically this year, with 2015 on course for the fewest deaths among civilian and security forces since 2007—the year the Pakistani Taliban umbrella group was formed.
Pakistan’s Islamist insurgency began after the U.S.-led invasion of neighboring Afghanistan in 2001, which led to a spillover of militants across the border and a surge in recruitment for Pakistani extremist groups.