At least six Pakistani police officers were killed in a raid on a checkpoint in southwestern Balochistan province, officials said Wednesday, in the latest Taliban-claimed attack in the restive area.
The assault took place in the mountainous Sanjawi area of Ziarat district, some 80 km (50 miles) east of the provincial capital Quetta.
“It was a sudden attack. The attackers came on motorcycles and killed all six personnel on duty,” Qadir Bakhsh, a senior government official in Ziarat, told AFP.
Bakhsh said the attackers were armed with automatic weapons and fled after the assault early Wednesday, March 20, adding that a search operation has been launched in the area.
The Pakistani Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack in an email sent to media.
Faisal Agha, another senior government official, confirmed the attack and toll.
The incident comes after at least four people were killed and seven wounded in a bomb attack on Sunday in the mineral-rich province.
Balochistan, which borders both Afghanistan and Iran, has been beset by ethnic, Islamist, and political insurgencies for decades along with high levels of poverty.
Its residents have long complained that it does not receive a fair share of the profits made from the province’s abundant mineral wealth.
China, one of Pakistan’s closest allies, has poured billions into the South Asian country in recent years as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – a massive infrastructure project that seeks to connect its western province of Xinjiang with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan.
The subject of economic dividends from CPEC is extremely sensitive in some of those areas, particularly in Balochistan.
Since the beginning of the project, militants have repeatedly attacked construction sites, blowing up numerous gas pipelines and trains, and targeted Chinese workers.
In November, members of the Balochi separatist group called the Balochistan Liberation Army stormed the Chinese consulate in Karachi, killing four people in a grenade and suicide attack it said was aimed at “oppressor” Beijing.
The Pakistani military has been targeting insurgencies in Baluchistan since 2004, and has been repeatedly accused by international rights groups of abuses there. It denies the allegations.
With reporting from AFP