4 Pakistani soldiers killed in raid on army base

Suspected fighters armed with guns, hand grenades and rockets attacked a military base in southern Pakistan, killing at least four soldiers, the army and security officials have confirmed.

Another five soldiers were critically wounded, the army said in a statement. At least three armed fighters were killed in retaliatory fire, and an operation was under way to apprehend two other attackers, it added.

Several fighters stormed the military base in Northern Balochistan’s Zhob district in the early hours, according to the army.

Security officials stated that the armed fighters fought a gun battle for several hours after hurling hand grenades inside a military mess.

“Initial attempt of terrorists to sneak into the facility was checked by soldiers on duty,” the army said, and added that “in ensuing heavy exchange of fire, the terrorists have been contained into a small area at the boundary.

“A clearance operation by security forces is under way to apprehend remaining two terrorists as well,” the statement added.

A newly founded group called Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP) claimed responsibility, saying in a statement it would release the pictures and videos of their fighters who took part in the attack.

The mineral-rich southern province that borders Afghanistan and Iran has faced a decades-old ethnic separatist uprising.

Bordering Iran and Afghanistan, Balochistan is strategically important because of its rich copper, zinc and natural gas reserves. Cities in the province are a constant target of armed groups.

Much of the violence is seen as a reaction by rebels to China’s investment plans in the region to link its Xinjiang province with the Arabian Sea in Balochistan through a network of roads and railways.

Attacks targeting law enforcement officers and workers, especially those involved with projects initiated by China under a $62bn investment plan, have grown in frequency in recent years.

Authorities claim to have quelled the armed uprising, but violence persists. The restive province has also seen attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Daesh armed groups.

The TTP 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.

Islamabad says rebel groups have rebased their operations to Afghanistan, which Kabul denies.

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