Asia PacificTerrorism

Balochistan Battle Death Toll Rises to 15, Says Pakistan Military

Four Pakistan servicemen and two civilians were among 15 killed in an hours-long gun battle with Balochistan militants in the southwest of the country, the military said.

Provincial officials told AFP on Tuesday at least six militants were killed in the clashes, but the military said later that “nine terrorists including three suicide bombers” had died in the exchange.

“However, during intense exchange of fire, four brave members of Law Enforcement Agencies, having fought gallantly, embraced Shahadat (martyrdom) along with two innocent civilians,” said Inter-Services Public Relations, the Pakistan military’s information wing.

The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) — an armed separatist group — claimed responsibility for the attack.

Provincial government spokesman Jan Achakzai said there had been coordinated attacks overnight Monday on at least three state facilities — including a paramilitary headquarters and a police station.

An AFP photographer saw the charred remains of several trucks in Bolan Colony, an arid district punctuated by fortified hills and scene of some of the heaviest fighting.

Islamabad has for decades battled ethnic separatist factions in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but poorest province, which is rich in natural resources.

Locals say they do not get their fair share of wealth from the oil and gas reserves, with the region consistently ranking at the bottom of Pakistan’s human development indicators.

Rights groups say a military crackdown on ethnic Baloch citizens includes enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Tensions over militancy in the region flared this month when Islamabad hit BLA fighters sheltering in neighbouring Iran, after Tehran targeted anti-Iran militants sheltering in Pakistan.

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