ISLAMABAD - Pakistani officials said Tuesday a roadside bombing of a military convoy and a separate clash with militants in southwestern Baluchistan province had killed at least seven troops and a civilian.
An army statement said in one incident, paramilitary troops were heading back to their base camp after a “routine patrolling duty” late Monday when an improvised explosive device hit their convoy in the remote Pir Ghaib area and detonated. Six troops and their civilian driver were killed.
Mureed Baluch, a purported spokesman for the so-called United Baluch Army separatist group, claimed it planted the bomb. He said in a statement to the news media the targeted Pakistani troops were guarding engineers of an oil and gas installation in the area.
It was not immediately possible to verify the militant claim through independent sources.
Separately, the Pakistani army said an overnight “exchange of fire with terrorists” in another Baluchistan district killed a soldier. It did not elaborate further, nor did anyone claim responsibility.
Separatists often plot deadly attacks against Pakistani security forces and government installations in natural resources-rich Baluchistan, the country’s largest and sparsely populated province. It shares Pakistan’s border with Iran and Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, a roadside bombing of a security convoy near the Iranian border killed six Pakistani soldiers, including a high-ranking officer. The slain troops were said to be monitoring illegal crossings on the largely porous border with Iran. Officials at the time alleged the attackers had come from the Iranian side.
The deadly attack prompted Pakistani military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to call the chief of the armed forces of Iran to share his concerns about the “terrorist” incident.
A post-conversation military statement quoted Bajwa as telling Iranian Major-General Mohammad Baqeri that Pakistan had started fencing the nearly 900-kilometer border between the two countries to deter illegal movements.
According to Iranian official media, Baqeri expressed his readiness for cooperation against “the miscreants” and called for enhancement of security measures at the borders so as to prevent the terrorist groups and “common enemies” from creating problems at the borders.
“But [it] will require mutual bilateral cooperation to ensure border security and stem smuggling activity which is also used by terrorists and narcotraffickers for covering their movement,” Bajwa said.