The Pakistan army claimed that it killed 10 suspected separatists allegedly involved in recent attacks on security forces in southwestern Balochistan province.
“Based on information of the presence of a terrorists’ camp and hideout in the Hoshab area (of) Balochistan, security forces conducted an operation to apprehend externally sponsored enemies of peace in Balochistan,” the military said in a statement.
Once the troops started cordoning the area, the statement added, the separatists tried to flee the hideout and opened indiscriminate fire.
“Resultantly, 10 terrorists including terrorist commander, Master Asif aka Mukesh, were killed in the exchange of fire,” it said.
The dead, according to the military, were involved in recent firings and attacks on security forces in the coastal districts of Turbat and Pasni.
The mineral-rich province of Balochistan battles separatist forces allegedly backed by India and other foreign powers. Dozens of security personnel and suspected militants have been killed in ambushes, clashes and bomb blasts across the region in recent weeks.
At least 20 soldiers were killed in attacks on security check posts and clashes with suspected militants in several parts of the province — a key route of the multibillion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the past month alone — a clear indication of the return of otherwise dwindling violence
A “huge” cache of arms and ammunition was also recovered, “which was planned for use against security forces,” the statement said.
“Operations to eliminate perpetrators of terrorist acts will continue and they will not be allowed to sabotage peace, stability and progress of Balochistan,” the statement added.
The province is also a key route of the $64 billion CPEC project, which aims to strategically connect China’s important northwestern Xinxiang province to Balochistan’s Gawadar port through a network of roads, railways and pipelines for cargo, oil and gas transportation.
The economic corridor will not only provide China cheaper access to Africa and the Middle East but will also bring billions of dollars to Pakistan in the form of transit fees from the world’s second-largest economy.
But the separatists, who are said to be involved in kidnapping and murdering Chinese workers in the recent past, oppose the project, accusing Beijing of “stealing” resources.