Four Soldiers, Civilian Killed In Attack On Pakistani Army Base In North Balochistan

Four soldiers and at least three gunmen were killed when a group of suspected militants attacked a Pakistani Army outpost in the restive Balochistan region of Pakistan, while a woman bystander caught in the cross fire has also died, the army and a regional administration chief said on July 12.

A group of up to 20 gunmen dressed in Pakistani Army uniforms launched an attack overnight on the military base in the northern Zhob district of Balochistan, the chief of the local administration, Muhammad Azim Kakar, told RFE/RL, adding that a prolonged gunfight ensued.

The Pakistani military said four of its troops were killed and another five were critically wounded.

Kakar said a woman who was traveling on a bus was also killed in the gunfight and three other passengers were wounded.

The military said a "clearing operation" was under way to neutralize the remaining attackers who fled the area.

A militant group called Tehrik-e Jihad Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack.

In May, six militants and seven soldiers were killed in another attack by Tehrik-e Jihad Pakistan on a military compound in Muslim Bagh, another district of Balochistan.

Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province that borders both Afghanistan and Iran, is regularly targeted by Islamist militants, sectarian groups, and nationalist separatists.

Balochistan is sparsely populated but rich in natural resources such as copper, gold, and gas, and has been marred by instability and violence.

The most prominent militant group in the region, the outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army, or BLA, routinely takes credit for attacks on Pakistani security forces.

The BLA claims ethnic Baluchis face extortion and discrimination by Pakistani authorities.

Islamabad rejects the charges. Ethnic Baluchis account for just under 4 percent of Pakistan’s population of 231 million.

With reporting by Reuters