Four soldiers killed in militant attack on Pakistani army base
PHOTO CAPTION: A Pakistani soldier stands guard along the border fence outside the Kitton outpost on the border with Afghanistan in North Waziristan, Pakistan October 18, 2017. REUTERS/Caren Firouz/File Photo
By Gul Yousafzai
QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) -Suspected Islamist militants armed with guns, hand grenades and rockets attacked a military base in southern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least four soldiers, the army and security officials said.
Another five soldiers were critically wounded in the assault on the base in the province of Balochistan, an army statement said. At least three militants were killed in retaliatory fire and an operation was underway to apprehend two others, it said.
Saeed Ahmad, a senior government official, said later that the operation had been completed in the cantonment with the killing of all five assailants. But he said troops were still sweeping neighbouring areas to flush out any hidden militants.
Several militants stormed the military base in Balochistan's Zhob district in the early hours, the army said, and three security officials said they hurled grenades into a military mess and then waged a gunbattle lasting several hours.
"Initial attempts by the terrorists to sneak into the facility was checked by soldiers on duty," the army statement said, and "in the ensuing heavy exchange of fire, the terrorists were contained into a small area at the (cantonment) boundary."
A newly founded jihadist group called Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP) claimed responsibility for the assault, saying in a statement it would release pictures and videos of its fighters who took part.
Balochistan, a mineral-rich region that borders Afghanistan and Iran, has been troubled by a decades-old ethnic Baloch insurgency.
Islamist militants, who aim to overthrow the Pakistani government and install their own brand of strict Islamic law in the predominantly Muslim country of 220 million people, have also been active in Balochistan.
They have stepped up attacks since revoking a ceasefire agreement with the government in late 2022, including the bombing of a mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar that killed more than 100 people in January.
The Pakistani government says militants have shifted operational bases to Afghanistan. Kabul's Islamist Taliban government denies this.
(Reporting by Gul Yousafzai in Quetta and Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar; additional Reporting by Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan; writing by Asif Shahzad; editing by Christina Fincher, Peter Graff and Mark Heinrich)