Conflicts & War

At least 7 Pakistani soldiers, 13 militants killed in restive Balochistan

Islamabad, Feb 3 (EFE).- At least seven soldiers and 13 militants have died in two overnight gunfights in Pakistan’s Balochistan, the army said Thursday, blaming India for the heightened violence in the volatile province.

In a statement, the army said groups of militants tried to storm into security camps in Panjgur and Naushki areas of Balochistan on Wednesday night.

“(But the) timely response by troops foiled the terrorist attempt,” the media wing of the army said.

Security forces killed nine militants while four soldiers, including an officer, died in the Naushki shootout, the army said.

At Panjgur, four militants and three security forces died in the gun battle.

The operations were still on as troops combed the areas on Thursday.

The army pinned the blame on neighboring India for planning and executing the attack from Afghanistan.

“As per initial investigation, intelligence agencies have intercepted communications between terrorists and their handlers in Afghanistan and India,” the army said.

Pakistan has routinely blamed India for stoking trouble in the impoverished province rich in gas and mineral resources.

But India has always dismissed the allegations.

Insurgent group Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In a statement, BLA spokesperson Jeeyand Baloch rejected the army claim as “a complete lie.”

The group claimed to have stormed the checkpoints where its fighters killed more than 100 soldiers.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, in a video message, described the operation as a “great success…against terrorism” in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan paid tributes to the slain soldiers.

“We salute our brave security forces who repulsed terrorist attacks against security forces,” the prime minister wrote on Twitter.

The prime minister said the nation stood united behind security forces “who continue to give great sacrifices to protect” the country.

The attacks are among the latest in a series of heightened militant strikes in the poverty-ridden Balochistan province that has battled deadly insurgency for years.

Earlier, a fire raid on a military check post in Kech district killed ten soldiers on Jan.26.

Several ethnic Baloch armed separatist groups fight the government for an independent state.

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