ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The attack on a military post in a remote southwestern district lasted for several hours. Dozens of attackers, from a Baluch separatist group, are armed with multiple rocket launchers and sophisticated weapons, outnumbering Pakistani soldiers. Officials said a heavy gunfight killed 10 Pakistani soldiers and one attacker, with the rest escaping.
The ambush, on Tuesday night, was one of the bloodiest against Pakistani soldiers in recent years and comes at a time of growing unrest. The country’s security forces have been on alert following a series of terrorist attacks this month – and officials say they are bracing for more attacks in the coming months as the Warrior groups expand the range and scale of attacks.
The Pakistani military officially confirmed the Baluchistan attack on Thursday night, a day after it tried to downplay the incident and restrict local media coverage of it. Military officials emphasize that they are still trying to grasp the details of the attack, which occurred in Kech, a remote mountainous district of southwestern Baluchistan, a gas and mineral-rich province where an uprising that has been simmering for decades.
In a statement, the military said that three people were arrested during a cleanup operation, and that they were still searching for other attackers. “The armed forces are determined to remove terrorists from our land at any cost,” the military said.
On Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack. “We are firm in our commitment to rid Pakistan of all forms of terrorism,” said Khan say on Twitter.
The increased violence reflects the formidable challenge Pakistan faces in containing not only the insurgency in Baluch but also the insurgent Taliban in the northwest of the country. Officials say the Pakistani Taliban has now unilaterally canceled the ceasefire previously announced in November, and efforts to pressure the Afghan Taliban to influence the Pakistani movement to give up arms remained futile.
The Balochistan Liberation Front, a separatist group, claimed responsibility shortly after Tuesday night’s attack and vowed to continue attacks against the Pakistani army. The group released photos of the slain member and video footage of the attack; The attackers slowly entered the military post, as explosions echoed and sparks emanated from the soldiers hiding in the bunkers.
Pakistani security officials said there were at least 35 attackers, who carried out a synchronized ambush of the post from different directions. The military post – at Sibdan, a remote, barren site in the Kech district – is used mainly for surveillance purposes.
The attack on the military post came shortly after a bombing rocked a busy shopping district east of Lahore, considered the cultural and political capital of Pakistan. On January 20, three people were killed while at least 25 others were injured in the explosion, which officials attributed to a motorcycle-mounted timer. A newly formed Baluch separatist group has claimed responsibility for the attack in Lahore.
While the two attacks may have been a coincidence, the increase in violence occurred in the background warning of the Baluch separatists that Chinese investments are not safe in Pakistan. Pakistan has been a showcase for China’s massive international development program, the Belt and Road Initiative, in recent years. China is estimated to have spent about $62 billion on those projects in Pakistan, mainly to build a transport corridor through Balochistan to a new Chinese-operated deep-water port in The Pakistani town of Gwadar.
While recent attacks have targeted security forces and others, the real target is elsewhere, analysts say.
“CPEC is still the target,” said Saleem Qamar Butt, a retired senior military officer and defense analyst based in Islamabad, of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. “Hateful intelligence agencies have started pumping money to promote Baloch proxies,” he said.
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met Khan on Wednesday and his senior commanders a day later as the army launched retaliation amid growing calls for action against the army. rebel army.
Security officials have said they will step up the crackdown on insurgents and intelligence-based operations against their supporters in the area have begun.
Pakistani officials have long asserted that India funds and supports the Baloch insurgency, which India denies. Baluch separatists are also believed to have bases inside Iran, which is a neighbor to Baluchistan province.
“The BLF has, for many years, used Iranian soil to carry out attacks in southwestern Balochistan,” said Ejaz Haider, a defense and political analyst, say on Twitter, referring to the Baluchistan Liberation Front. “Why are we afraid of that discussion?” he added.
“The soil of Afghanistan and Iran both serve as launchpads for terrorists,” said Butt, a defense analyst, adding that the government’s color scheme government could spur further separatist groups.
“We need to attack them in their bases, both at home and abroad,” he said.
Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud Report contributions from Islamabad.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/world/asia/separatists-pakistani-soldiers.html Separatists kill 10 Pakistani soldiers in attack on outpost