Pakistani security forces have been battling Baloch rebel groups after militants launched multiple coordinated attacks across Balochistan province. The brazen assaults left at least 10 people dead and several wounded, marking one of the deadliest days in the long-running conflict between separatists and the Pakistani state.
Overnight Onslaught Targets Security Installations
The attacks began late Monday night when Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) fighters initiated what they titled “Operation Dara-e-Bolan” across the towns of Mach and Bolan.
- At least six rockets were fired at a Frontier Corps headquarters in Mach, killing one police officer and injuring several paramilitary troops
- Militants also targeted a security forces camp near Mach Central Jail with guns and grenades
- Additional attacks struck various checkpoints and patrols across the region
“It was a well-coordinated terror attack intended to target security forces. They used light and heavy weapons including rockets, mortars, grenades and small firearms,” said provincial home minister Zia Ullah Langove.
Security forces responded fiercely, besieging militant hideouts in the mountainous terrain. By morning, authorities announced six insurgents including two suicide bombers had been “neutralized” along with four soldiers killed.
The coordinated raids mark an escalation by groups seeking independence for Balochistan province from Pakistan. Though no faction claimed responsibility, experts believe the strikes bear the characteristics of an increasingly brazen BLA.
“The attack appears to be retaliation for recent counterterrorism operations targeting BLA sanctuaries,” defense analyst Hassan Askari told the Wall Street Journal. “As security forces squeeze rebel strongholds, we can expect to see more spectacular attacks aimed at garnering global attention.”
Who Are The Baloch Rebels?
Baloch separatists have fought an on-and-off guerilla war seeking independence for Balochistan province since the 1970s. The region is Pakistan’s largest and resource-richest territory but remains its most impoverished. Many Balochs accuse the central government of exploitation and human rights abuses.
The BLA is the main insurgent faction. Formed in 2000, the Marxism-inspired group has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Pakistani security forces and infrastructure targets across Balochistan and beyond. Their capabilities were augmented recently when a faction of the old Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) merged into the BLA ranks.
BLA fighters operate from remote mountain bases near the Afghan border but possess enough mobility for hit-and-run raids before retreating into safe havens. Funding is secured via Baloch diaspora networks while equipment like assault rifles, RPGs and explosives is smuggled in from neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials frequently allege Indian intelligence support for Baloch militants in order destabilize national security – a charge New Delhi denies. Analysts believe while some exiled rebel leaders may enjoy safe refuge in India, concrete state-sponsorship remains unlikely.
Bloodshed Raises Alarms of Escalation
This week’s bloody attacks have raised concerns the long-running Baloch insurgency could enter a new intensified phase. The sophisticated strikes followed warnings from the BLA it would initiate a fresh campaign against security forces across Balochistan dubbed “Operation Dara-e-Bolan.”
Pakistani forces are braced for follow-on ambushes and bombings as they step up search operations targeting militant sanctuaries. Officials warned public rallies and crowded markets could also be vulnerable.
The violence poses a challenge for newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan who campaigned heavily on resolving the Baloch crisis through political reconciliation rather than brute force. But a proposed amnesty for rebels has won little traction within Pakistan’s powerful military which favors ever harsher counterinsurgency tactics.
With national elections looming next year, Khan faces pressure from opposition parties blaming his coalition government for security lapses allowing well-equipped militants to continually ambush poorly defended outposts.
Ultimately, negotiations remain the only long-term solution according to experts. But the surge in BLA attacks combined with the emotive speeches of exiled rebel leaders pledging unrelenting war indicates the road to peace in Balochistan remains filled with bloodshed.
“Until underlying grievances driving the insurgency are resolved, I don’t see Taliban-style takeover of territory but we should expect this heightened asymmetric warfare to become the new normal,” concludes analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai. “The rebels won’t achieve independence but they can certainly make life miserable for security forces while enflaming communal tensions.”
|10+ killed including 1 policeman & 6 militants
|4 soldiers killed
|3 militants killed
|2 soldiers killed
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