Security forces say they have killed around a dozen Islamic State militants in Balochistan, in an operation carried out after two Chinese nationals were kidnapped in Quetta.
Military’s media wing, ISPR said an intelligence based operation spawning two days was conducted in Splinji area of the rugged Mastung district.
“During exchange of fire 12 hardcore terrorists have been killed. 5 security officials including 2 officers got injured,” it said in a press release, without mentioning the identity and affiliation of the dead militants. It said the operation successfully foiled major terrorist activities in Balochistan as the terrorists were hiding inside a cave and using it for planning, coordination and execution of terrorist activities across the province.
A senior security official said the targeted militants were IS commanders who were using the hideout cave as a base to plan attacks across the country, especially Balochistan. The raid was prompted by intelligence reports that the group were holding two Chinese workers abducted last month in Quetta, an incident which raised safety concerns for Beijing’s multi-billion-dollar investments in the country.
“Some 12-13 IS commanders have been killed after intense gun-battles and the area was cleared late Saturday,” he said on Sunday, but added that the Chinese pair were not recovered from the scene despite the presence of the vehicle used in their kidnapping nearby. IS has been making inroads in the country through alliances with local militant outfits such as the sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar groups, though its presence is generally downplayed by the government.
Security forces also seized six suicide jackets, a cache of ammunition, explosives, detonators, solar panels and food rations, another security official said.
Mineral-rich Balochistan has been plagued by religious and separatist insurgencies since 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting. But a greater push towards peace and development by the authorities has reduced overall levels of violence in recent years.