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Pakistan Kills 24 Insurgents in Volatile Baluchistan

Pakistan Kills 24 Insurgents in Volatile Baluchistan
Pakistan Kills 24 Insurgents in Volatile Baluchistan

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Authorities in Pakistan said Friday that security forces killed 24 separatist militants, including key commanders, in a three-day counterinsurgency operation in turbulent southwestern Baluchistan province.

The military’s media wing confirmed in a statement that the clashes in the town of Mach had also killed four security personnel and two civilians since they erupted early Tuesday when key government installations there came under insurgent attack.

“These terrorists were then hunted down in the ensuing sanitization and clearance operations, which have now been concluded after clearing and securing the area,” the military said. It noted in an earlier statement that several suicide bombers were also among the slain assailants.

An uptick in militant violence in the country of about 241 million people has fueled security concerns ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for February 8.

The separatist Baloch Liberation Army, or BLA, took responsibility for this week’s coordinated raid in Mach, saying it targeted Pakistani paramilitary forces’ installations in Mach.

A BLA statement sent to journalists Friday said that nearly 400 of its fighters, including several suicide bombers, had carried out the attacks, killing dozens of security forces. It confirmed the deaths of 13 fighters in the ensuing clashes.

The group, however, is known for downplaying its losses and inflating the number of casualties caused by its attacks in sparsely populated Baluchistan, the country’s largest and natural resource-rich region.

The poverty-stricken province has for years been the scene of a low-level Baluch insurgency, prompting the Pakistan military to routinely launch counterinsurgency operations amid persistent allegations of state repression.

Militants linked to outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and a local branch of Islamic State, known as Islamic State-Khorasan, are also active in the province, which shares the country’s border with Iran and Afghanistan.

Human rights groups and victims’ families in Baluchistan have regularly staged street protests to demand accountability and called for an end to the practice of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, accusations that Pakistani authorities reject.

Amnesty International, in a statement last week, renewed a call for Pakistan to return all victims of alleged enforced disappearances or inform families of the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones.

“Concrete steps must be taken to criminalize enforced disappearance as per international human rights law, standards and best practice,” said Carolyn Horn, program director of law and policy at Amnesty International.

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