QUETTA - Suspected Baloch militants killed at least 15 soldiers of the Frontier Corps, including a major, in an ambush in the province’s Musa Khel’s area on Monday.
It was one of the deadliest attacks on troops and marked the highest number of military personnel dead in a single incident since March when friendly fire killed 13 soldiers on the northwestern border with Afghanistan.
Up to four dozen militants struck before dawn in the Musa Khel district, 400 kilometres southeast of Quetta. The military said the troops were guarding a private coal mine and blamed the attack on Baloch militants, who rose up in 2004 to demand political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the province’s wealth of natural resources. The Baloch Liberation Army accepted responsibility for the attack. “Fourteen paramilitary personnel, including a major, were killed and several others were wounded. Baloch militants were involved,” an official said. The deceased were identified as Major Amir Shezad, Lance Naik Moqarab, Subedar Baro Khan, Hawaldar Abdul Ghafoor and Sepoys Mera Jan, Ghulam Sarwar, Moibullah, Zubair Ahmad, Abdul Ghani, Mohammad Asif, Hafiz Tauseeq, Zahoor Hussain, Sabir Saeed and Abdul Hameed.
Frontier Corps Spokesman Murtaza Baig told reporters that the deceased security personnel belonged to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, adding that their bodies had been flown to their native towns for burial. Security officials said the militants were armed with automatic weapons and that most of the soldiers died from gunshot wounds in the remote area. The BLA claimed that a severe gunbattle between Baloch Sarmachars (fighters) and the security forces led to the killing of 40 security personnel and injuries to several. He said around 30 to 35 weapons were taken into possession by the Sarmachars after the gunbattle.
ANOTHER ATTACK? He also claimed that in another attack on Monday, Sarmachars attacked FC men in four areas of Hun in Barkhan district, Mawand, Chapi Kachh, Jandaran in Kohlu and killed 11 of them and injured another 18. However, security sources rejected the claim.
FC officials told Pakistan Today that the gunbattle lasted several hours and a number of Baloch militants might also have been killed, but did not know the exact number of casualties. On the other hand, the spokesman for the Baloch National Voice, a separatist group said security forces had launched a search operation in Chamalang and its adjacent areas and arrested dozens of innocent people. Official sources said in another incident, militants fired over 30 rockets on security checkposts in the Kohlu area. However, no casualty was reported.