Posts Tagged ‘Quetta’

Pakistani Taliban kill four government paramilitary troopers in gun attack

February 14, 2018

Quetta is plagued by attacks from militant movements like the Pakistani Taliban, who are separate from but loosely allied with the Taliban movement that ruled neighboring Afghanistan in the 1990s. (Reuters)
QUETTA, Pakistan: Pakistani Taliban militants shot dead four paramilitary soldiers in Pakistan’s western city of Quetta, where last month seven security men were killed in a suicide attack, police and the militant group said.
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The Frontier Corps troopers were patrolling the residential neighborhood of Langoabad on motorcycles when they were fired on by gunmen also riding bikes, said Naseebullah Khan, Senior Superintendent of Police for Quetta.
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“The four men were shot in the head,” Khan said, adding that handguns were used in the attack.
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Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack.
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Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, rich in resources and at the heart of $58 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor stretching from the Arabian Sea to China’s Xinjiang region.
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The province, the poorest and least developed in Pakistan, has suffered nearly a decade of separatist violence against the government.
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The area also is plagued by attacks from militant movements like the Pakistani Taliban, who are separate from but loosely allied with the Taliban movement that ruled neighboring Afghanistan in the 1990s and has fought an insurgency against western and Afghan government forces since 2001.

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ISIS’ shadow grows over Pakistan

January 20, 2018

Cut in US security aid will make it harder to take on the terrorist group

Late last year, a black-and-white flag was detected fluttering in the breeze near a highway in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. It bore the emblem of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), and at its base were three words: “Khilafat is coming”.

“The caliphate is coming” is an apt warning as Pakistan struggles in its campaign against terrorism and religious extremism.

A report published this month by the independent Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (Pips) flagged an “alarming” increase in ISIS’ footprint in the country even though the Pakistan Taleban and its affiliates remain the most potent threat, being responsible for nearly 60 per cent of the 370 terrorist attacks last year.

“What has been quite alarming is the increasing footprint of Daesh, especially in Balochistan and Sindh,” said the annual security report, using the Arabic term for ISIS.

ISIS was responsible for at least six major attacks last year that left 153 people dead, mostly civilians, it noted. Its victims included two Chinese nationals who were abducted and killed. Other targets included a Sufi shrine in Sindh in which scores were killed, a Methodist church in Quetta and a Pakistani military convoy.

“There is a need to take the matter more seriously because there is a possibility that foreign fighters would come to Pakistan in the near future as things are continuously changing in the Middle East,” Pips official Muhammad Ismail Khan told The Dawn.

ISIS has grown, in part, because of its ability to appeal to and forge alliances with other militant groups. For instance, several nationalist groups in Balochistan that have for a long time waged an insurgency against the Pakistani security forces are reportedly seeking an alliance with ISIS to expand their anti-state resistance.

A policeman standing guard on the roof of a Methodist church in Quetta last December, a day after it was attacked by the ISIS group.

A policeman standing guard on the roof of a Methodist church in Quetta last December, a day after it was attacked by the ISIS group. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSENorthern Sindh, which is mired in choking poverty and underdevelopment, is a fertile recruiting ground for various radical groups.

ISIS has grown, in part, because of its ability to appeal to and forge alliances with other militant groups… For the small-scale hardline and sectarian groups, being associated with a “global brand name” terrorist group like ISIS has its appeal.

For the small-scale hardline and sectarian groups, being associated with a “global brand name” terrorist group like ISIS has its appeal.

And then, there is the complex relationship with the Pakistan Taleban, a heavy hitter otherwise known as Tehreek-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP).

While the TTP may at one level be in competition with ISIS for recruits, the fact remains that they share a common hostility towards the state apparatus and minority communities. Various TTP factions are believed to have collaborated with ISIS in attacks on security forces.

A concern also is that ISIS will find it easy to leverage on the networks of existing hardline groups such as the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan to grow and carry out its activities given their common worldview and goals.

Where it does not have a physical presence, ISIS could decide to “outsource” attacks to its associates.

While the ISIS presence is strongest in Balochistan and Sindh, its cells have been busted in various Pakistani cities such as Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad.

And the people drawn to ISIS are not necessarily the ultra-conservative men from tribal regions of popular imagination.

In April last year, a security-forces raid on a hideout in Lahore yielded a stash of hand grenades and suicide vests, as well as a 20-year-old medical student who had disappeared from her home town of Hyderabad to join ISIS.

Had she not been arrested, Noreen Leghari was to have blown herself up two days later at an Easter church service.

In a separate case, the ISIS assailants who massacred Shi’ite Muslims packed in a bus were well-educated young men from top universities in Pakistan.

It is hard to ascertain when ISIS planted its roots in Pakistan and the size of its membership.

But four years ago, it came to public attention when a crackdown on the Taleban prompted an appeal for help from women students at an Islamabad madrasah to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The British defence think-tank, the Royal United Services Institute, estimated last year that there were 2,000 to 3,000 ISIS members in Pakistan, according to a Washington Post report.

Several hundred Pakistanis are believed to have made their way to the Middle East. The worry is that as ISIS is being pushed out of Syria and Iraq, more and more of these fighters will return to carry out their caliphate-building mission on home ground.

The rise of ISIS comes at an unfortunate juncture in Pakistan’s relations with the United States.

The Trump administration blames Pakistan for failing to help it rein in the Taleban in Afghanistan – which has grown increasingly powerful – and recently announced it would cut US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) in security assistance.

Pakistan, in turn, sees US policy as tilting increasingly in favour of its enemy, India, and is loath to cut ties with some militant groups which are seen as useful assets.

For some time now, the Pakistan army has been fencing its largely porous border with Afghanistan, and establishing new forts as well as outposts on mountain peaks. The US aid cut is certainly going to hamper these efforts to curb cross-border infiltration and counter-terrorism operations in Balochistan and northern Sindh.

With both the US and Pakistan at loggerheads, the ones that will benefit are the terrorists.

As the highway banner warned: The caliphate is coming. Expect more trouble ahead. •The writer is a lecturer with the Forman Christian College University in Pakistan and a correspondent for The Diplomat magazine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2018, with the headline ‘ISIS’ shadow grows over Pakistan’.
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China, Pakistan, Afghanistan agree on terror cooperation — Threat of terrorism tied to China’s vast western Xinjiang region

December 26, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Analysts say Beijing’s repressive policies in Xinjiang have engendered riots and terrorist attacks by members of the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority that calls the area home, although China disputes the claim

BEIJING (AFP) – Ministers from Afghanistan, Pakistan and China met in Beijing on Tuesday where they agreed to work together to tackle the threat of terrorism tied to China’s vast western Xinjiang region.The first trilateral meeting of foreign ministers from the countries comes as China steps up its investment in its neighbouring nations as part of its trillion-dollar One Belt One Road investment initiative.

China depends on Afghanistan and Pakistan to help control Xinjiang’s borders, where analysts say Beijing’s repressive policies have engendered riots and terrorist attacks by members of the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority that calls the area home, although China disputes the claim.

Beijing regularly accuses exiled Uighur separatist groups such as the shadowy East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) of orchestrating attacks in resource-rich Xinjiang and other parts of China.

It has expressed concern about Uighur militants finding sanctuary in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We agreed to cooperate in fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and without any distinctions of any sort,” said Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani after the meeting.

Afghanistan will continue its “resolute fight against ETIM and their support groups and networks, and overall counterterrorism cooperation”, he added.

China has long pushed the international community for support in addressing the problem, which it says stems from the infiltration of “radical” religious groups into Xinjiang.

In response, Beijing has placed strict controls on religious practice in the region, turning it into a virtual police state, in a campaign that analysts say has enflamed separatist sentiment.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said the three parties had reached complete consensus in fighting terrorism, adding that China would also “fully leverage” Xinjiang as a base for economic cooperation with the bordering countries.

China’s Belt and Road infrastructure project seeks to revive ancient trade routes, including a massive overland network stretching through Xinjiang and neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan towards Europe.

China’s expanding economic presence in Pakistan and Afghanistan has also brought some terrorism related setbacks.

This summer two Chinese citizens travelling on business visas to Pakistan were kidnapped in Quetta, the provincial capital of mineral-rich Balochistan province. The Islamic State group claimed responsiblity for killing them.

Pakistan said at the time that the two had been engaged in illegal preaching.

Deadly suicide attack on Christian church in southwest Pakistan

December 17, 2017

AFP

© Banaras Khan, AFP | A Pakistani policeman stands guard outside the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church during a Christmas mass in Quetta on December 25, 2014.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-17

At least four people were killed and and 18 wounded on Sunday after two suicide attackers stormed a church in the restive southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta Sunday, officials said, just over a week before Christmas.

Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister for Baluchistan province, says hundreds of worshippers were attending services at the church ahead of Christmas. He says one attacker was killed at the entrance to the church while the other set off his payload inside. Police officer Mohammad Atiq confirmed the toll.

Image result for Balochistan, map

Local television showed ambulances and security patrols racing to the scene while women and children were being led out of the church’s main gate.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Muslim extremists have targeted Pakistan’s Christian minority in the past.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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Pakistan moving towards instability: Nawaz Sharif

December 15, 2017

Geo News

LONDON: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday said the country is moving towards instability and the current circumstances in Pakistan are not satisfactory.

Image result for Nawaz Sharif, photos

Nawaz Sharif

Nawaz added that the country, which was progressing well, is now moving towards instability after the July 28 decision.

“I said it during my rally in Quetta too, such decisions become the reason for anarchy in a country,” said the former prime minister.

Nawaz is in London after the court had exempted him for a short duration from appearing in the hearings held for the NAB references registered against him.

Nawaz said his government has worked hard during the last four years to improve the country and the circumstances of the masses.

However, he said, terrorism which was under control during his leadership is again rearing its head in the country.

“CPEC projects have slowed down, projects are not progressing at the speed as they were during our tenure,” elaborated Nawaz further and added that the stock exchange, which was hovering around 54,000 points, has now dropped down to around 37,000 points.

“These are all economic indicators. Political instability effects the country.”

Nawaz also expressed his dismay at the current circumstances.

Image result for Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, photos

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

Earlier today, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif arrived at Hasan Nawaz’s office in London to meet party leader and former premier Nawaz Sharif.

Nawaz’s daughter Maryam, Shehbaz’s son Salman, and other members of the family were also present at the meeting.

Abbasi said the government would complete its tenure and elections would be held on time.

“The government will complete its tenure and elections will be held on time,” said the prime minister, reiterating the government’s stance.

The prime minister also said that the merger of FATA with KP is part of the agenda and some reservations raised are being allayed.

The PML-N leaders also met former premier Shaukat Aziz at his London residence yesterday to offer their condolences on the demise of his son.

According to credible sources privy to developments in PML-N, Nawaz has also recently met former finance minister Ishaq Dar in London. The meeting was held at the residence of Nawaz’s son, Hasan Nawaz, wherein the present situation of the country came under discussion, sources said.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/172299-country-moving-towards

China is helping Pakistan build bunkers along Gujarat, Rajasthan border. But why?

December 2, 2017

India Today

The Pakistani side has set up more than 350 such dugouts with Chinese help. The structures are difficult to locate as the stones used for the construction are inconspicuous.

Sharat Kumar | Dev Ankur Wadhawan | Posted by Ashna Kumar
New Delhi, December 1, 2017 | UPDATED 08:33 IST

Bunkers made by the Pakistan army along the Gujarat border.The permanent bunkers along the border with Gujarat and Rajasthan are difficult to locate.
China is helping Pakistan build strong permanent bunkers along the border with Gujarat and Rajasthan, pictures exclusively accessed by Aaj Tak reveal, in fresh evidence of the two troublesome neighbours joining forces to nettle India.

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The Pakistani side has set up more than 350 such dugouts with Chinese help. The structures are difficult to locate as the stones used for the construction are inconspicuous.
Sources say defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has already visited key areas thrice to assess the security preparedness since getting intelligence reports on the matter.

Pakistan has also purportedly undertaken construction of defence canals, swamps and road infrastructure. China and Pakistan consider each other “all-weather friends” and have close diplomatic, economic and security ties. Officials point out that there has been a significant rise in the number of Chinese soldiers close to the Indian border with Pakistan.

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WHAT ARE THE CHINESE UP TO?

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The Chinese have also been building airports adjacent to India: two have come up in the last four months while work on two more is underway. An airbase is already complete about 25km away from the Ghotaru border in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district. The Chinese have been building another airport in Tharparkar, close to Rajasthan’s Barmer.

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This base too is about 25km from the Indian border.

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India has often raised concerns over China’s growing presence in the region, fearing strategic encirclement by a “string of pearls” around the Indian Ocean and on land as China builds ports, railways and power stations in countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Chinese soldiers have been building an airport close to Gujarat as well, in the Mithi region, 20km from India.

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Plans are afoot to lay railway tracks for a China-Pakistan corridor. According to sources, during a flag meeting with India, Pakistan claimed that the airports will be used by oil and gas companies of China as earlier they used to find it difficult to arrive at the location. New Delhi has been sceptical of Beijing’s One Belt, One Road Initiative (OBOR) – an audacious network of land and sea routes that seeks to connect Asia, Europe, Africa and West Asia in a modern, magnified version of the Silk Route.

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Part of the corridor runs through Gilgit-Baltistan, territory that India sees as sovereign and illegally occupied, all the way to the Gwadar deep-sea port in Pakistan. New Delhi denounced the project and boycotted a huge conclave in May in Beijing that was attended by 60 countries that have signed up to the Belt-and-Road project.

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According to intelligence inputs, several Chinese soldiers have also been seen in Peerkamal and Cholistan, close to Jaislamer. Security agencies are perplexed at the prospect of the relatively quiet desert area being turned into a strategic location by China.

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There are also reports that Chinese soldiers are trying to upgrade airbases such as the ones in Pakistan’s Karachi, Jacobabad, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Sargoda and Peshawar. Relations between China and India nosedived this year during a dispute over a three-way junction between Bhutan, China’s Tibet and India’s Sikkim, which was resolved with both sides standing down in August.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/china-helping-pakistan-india-border-pakistan-army-gujarat-rajasthan/1/1100892.html

Suicide Vest Bomb kills 4, wounds 19 in southwest Pakistan

November 25, 2017

(Google Maps)
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QUETTA: A suicide bomber detonated his explosives vest in the southwestern city of Quetta, killing at least four people and wounding 19 others, police said Saturday.
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Senior officer Abdur Razzaq Cheema said the suicide attack took place near a bus terminal in the city’s outskirts. The target was the vehicle of an army colonel but the officer was not in the vehicle at the time of attack, he said.
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Cheema said most of the victims were civilians, including a child, while four security men were also wounded.
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Explosive experts concluded that some 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of explosives with steel balls were used in the suicide vest, Cheema said.
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Pakistan’s Taliban group claimed responsibility for the suicide attack, which came two weeks after a suicide bomber killed Quetta’s police chief and three other officers. The Pakistani Taliban also claimed responsibility for that attack.
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Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, the scene of a low-level insurgency by Baluch separatist groups.
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Meanwhile, Daesh group has claimed responsibility for killing a senior police officer and his guard in a suicide attack in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday.
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The Fence Driving a Wedge Between Pakistan and Afghanistan

November 2, 2017

Bloomberg

By Ismail Dilawar  and Kamran Haider

  • Border smuggling dwarves official trading between neighbors
  • Pakistan has only fenced 43 kilometers of large pourous border

On the upper deck of the Hamza Fort border check-point in Pakistan’s South Waziristan, Major General Nauman Zakaria points to a 12-foot high fence just yards away — the latest initiative the military says will stem insurgent attacks across a more than 1,000 mile disputed border with Afghanistan.

“There won’t be an inch of international border that shall not remain under our observation,” said Zakaria, who has served in counter-insurgency operations in restive border regions of south and north Waziristan.

At an estimated cost of more than $532 million, Pakistan has started fencing the 2,344-kilometer (1,456 miles) border with war-torn Afghanistan, the latest measure that’s driving a wedge between the fractious neighbors who have accused each other of harboring insurgents launching cross-border attacks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has condemned Pakistan for instigating an “undeclared war of aggression” against his nation. While only 43 kilometers has so far been fenced since May, Ghani’s administration has repeatedly denounced and threatened armed confrontation over its construction across the disputed Durand Line, which divided the largely ethnic Pashtun communities in the region during British colonial rule.

Despite the objections, Pakistan is proceeding with its plan as Islamabad faces increased U.S. pressure to act against terrorists. President Donald Trump in August strongly denounced the nation’s alleged duplicity. He said the nuclear-armed Islamic Republic continues to harbor militant groups, such as the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network, which have attacked American-backed forces in Afghanistan.

After visiting Islamabad during a tour of South Asia last month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was concerned terror groups are undermining political stability in Pakistan and called on leaders there to join in eradicating fighters that seek safe haven within its borders.

Feasibility Questioned

Pakistan’s military expects to complete construction of the chain-linked and barbed-wire topped fence across the South Waziristan portion by December 2018. No timeline has been given for completion of the entire length of the border and there are questions over whether the plan is logistically feasible along the porous and often mountainous terrain.

There are 235 crossing points, some frequently used by militants and drug traffickers, of which 18 can be accessed by vehicles, according to a report by the Afghanistan Analysts Network research group last month.

A soldier stands by a new border fence in Pakistan’s South Waziristan.

Photographer: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban are used to moving with ease between the two countries in the often lawless border lands and are usually waved through by Pakistan security forces, according to the AAN, citing conversations with multiple current and former Taliban fighters, doctors and Afghans living in the region. Pakistan’s military has long denied supporting militant groups, including the Taliban.

While there has been some tightening of security since, the AAN said more than 2,000 Taliban commanders traveled to the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta in July 2015 to witness Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s ascension to the group’s leadership, before his death last year when he was killed in Pakistan by a U.S. drone strike.

“It was like a free highway,” Asad Munir, a retired brigadier who served in Waziristan and other border regions, said about one of the crossing points in Birmal. Militants won’t sit idle and will find alternative routes to sneak across the fenced border, he said.

Officials from Afghanistan’s foreign ministry didn’t respond to calls seeking comment, though in April the ministry’s spokesman, Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni, said “any type of unilateral actions” along the Durand Line will be “ineffective, impractical and impossible” without Afghanistan’s agreement. The country will use its security forces to stop the fencing if diplomacy fails, he said.

Nafees Zakaria, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry, said in a text message that the border fortification was being misconstrued by Afghanistan and is “instrumental in curtailing cross-border movement of terrorists and other undesired elements, smuggling of drugs, weapons and other goods.”

Opiate Trade

The fencing may reduce rampant smuggling which is valued at $3 billion by the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry — more than double the size of official trade between the two nations. Pakistan’s central bank recorded the bilateral trade at $1.2 billion in the financial year ended June.

The barrier is also aimed at reducing the drug trade across the border, which fund the Taliban’s operations in Afghanistan. About 40 percent of the opiates produced in the war-torn country are used in and transit through Pakistan, according to the United Nation’s. The UN estimates that Afghanistan’s opium poppy production grew by 700 tons to 4,800 tons in the decade ended 2016.

“Pakistan is one of the biggest transit routes for the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan,” said Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, a retired colonel who is a member of Pakistan’s Senate committee on narcotics control. Pakistan’s anti-narcotics force “is trying its best to control it, but lacks power to keep the whole border sealed.”

— With assistance by Eltaf Najafizada

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-31/the-fence-driving-a-wedge-between-pakistan-and-afghanistan

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Blast hits train in Pakistan’s Baluchistan; at least six hurt

October 27, 2017

Reuters

October 27, 2017

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) – At least six people were wounded on Friday when a bomb went off along railway tracks in southwestern Pakistan, halting train service in the region, security and railways officials said.

The train was traveling from Baluchistan’s capital of Quetta to the eastern metropolis of Lahore when a blast on the main railway track damaged one of the train cars.

“One train bogie was damaged in the blast and a portion of the tracks blown up,” said railways official Aammir Baloch, adding that train services for Quetta had been suspended.

Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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Train bomb blast

At least 4 killed in Pakistan train bomb blasts

Representational image (Getty Images)
Updated: Oct 7, 2016, 03:22 PM IST, Reuters

The bombs hit the Jaffer Express which runs between the provincial capital, Quetta, and Rawalpindi, next to Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.

Two bombs targeting a train in the restive western Pakistani province of Balochistan killed at least four people on Friday and wounded 16, officials said.

The bombs hit the Jaffer Express which runs between the provincial capital, Quetta, and Rawalpindi, next to the capital, Islamabad, said Kashif Akhtar, a senior railways official in Quetta. “The train was stopped, and then as people were leaving the train, there was another explosion under a different (carriage),” he told Reuters.

No group had claimed responsibility for the explosions near the town of Mach, about 65 km (40 miles) southeast of Quetta. Ethnic Baloch rebel forces have targeted transport infrastructure in the province in the past.

Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique, addressing reporters outside parliament in Islamabad, confirmed the attack.

Railway services from Quetta had been suspended and rescue services were tending to the wounded, Akhtar said.

Security forces foiled a similar attack on Thursday as an attacker laid explosives on a railway track near Quetta, he said.

Last week, Allah Nazar Baloch, the chief of the Balochistan Liberation Front, appealed for international help in his group’s fight against the state, including from Pakistan’s regional rival India. Attacks on infrastructure in Balochistan are a cause of concern for Pakistan’s neighbour and “all-weather” friend China.

Beijing is investing $46 billion in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor project, which aims to link western China to Pakistan’s Arabia Sea with a network of road, rail and energy pipelines. Many of the routes pass through Balochistan. ($1 = 105 rupees).

Roadside Bomb Blast Kills Eight Soldiers in Southwest Pakistan

August 16, 2017

QUETTA, Pakistan — A roadside bomb killed eight soldiers in a remote district in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Baluchistan, a government official said on Tuesday, the second attack within days in the troubled region.

The blast late on Monday in Harnai district was some 160 km (100 miles) east of the provincial capital, Quetta, where a suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into an army truck on Saturday, killing eight soldiers and seven civilians.

The separatist Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) group claimed responsibility for the bombing in phone calls made to media in Quetta. Islamic State said it carried out Saturday’s bombing.

Image result for Baloch Liberation Army , BLA, photos

Army chief General Qamar Bajwa said the attack was an attempt to mar celebrations on Monday as Pakistan celebrated 70 years since independence from British colonial rule.

“Our resolve won’t succumb to any challenge,” Bajwa said in a statement the army media wing posted on Twitter

 Image result for Balochistan, map

Separatist militants in Baluchistan have waged a campaign against the central government for decades, demanding a greater share of resources in the gas-rich province, which is a key part of a $57 billion Chinese economic corridor through Pakistan.

The province, which shares border with Afghanistan and Iran, was rocked by a series of attacks late last year that raised concerns about a growing militant presence, including fighters affiliated with Islamic State.

(Writing by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Nick Macfie)