DUBAI / KARACHI: A large intelligence-based operation is underway against militants hiding near Pakistan’s border with Iran in southwestern Balochistan province, Pakistani intelligence officials and local witnesses say, in the latest effort to combat violence on the 900 km joint border.
Over the years, Iran and Pakistan have accused each other of not making enough efforts to evict militants suspected of sheltering across the border.
In the latest attack which caused a dispute between the two countries, six Pakistani security personnel were killed in a bomb attack on a paramilitary Border Corps vehicle, the army media wing said on May 19. Six Pakistani soldiers were also killed in a roadside bomb. the attack on Balochistan on May 8.
Some militant groups are active in Balochistan, the largest but poorest province in Pakistan. Most of the violence in the past has been blamed, or claimed by, Baloch ethnic separatists.
Baloch Khan, a spokesman for Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella group of the Baloch rebel group, was confirmed in a media statement last month that “Pakistani military operations” were underway and the army was surrounding and attacking remote villages. However, he said no BRAS commander or fighter had been killed in the attack.
An intelligence official who declined to be named told Arab News that it was called Operation Ground Zero Clearance.
Two additional intelligence officials confirmed that the operation was ongoing. Two local witnesses in the Mand area in the Kech district also confirmed “action” in their area.
In a Twitter post on May 23, a pro-government politician from Balochistan, Nawabzada Jamal Khan Raisani, said the Pakistani military had launched a “cleanup operation” against the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) along the border with Iran .
The two groups are part of BRAS, together with the Republican Army of Baloch and the Republican Guard of the Baloch.
“The action began (on May 21) with a series of terrorists neutralized and their hiding damaged,” Raisani said.
He told Arab News that a senior BLF commander, Abdul Hameed (aka Ghazin Baloch), was among the two dozen militants killed in the ongoing operation, which he said was led by Pakistani army and intelligence officers.
The Pakistani military media wing and the Foreign Office refused a request by Arab News for comment.
Ijaz Ahmed Shah, the federal interior minister, said his team would respond to questions sent by email, but no response was received until the time of the press.
Balochistan Interior Minister Mir Zia Ullah Langove did not respond to specific questions about the operation “for security reasons,” but said: “We have taken effective action.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media about the issue, an intelligence officer based in the city of Turbat said “target banks” had been gathered by officials for weeks, and raids were now underway. out in several areas, especially against militants hiding in the border areas of Kecch, Panjgur and Gwadar.
Pakistan began to fence off the 900 km border with Iran in May last year, which has been a source of “frustration” for the insurgents, the intelligence official said, making them plan more attacks.
Last month, Pakistani military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke with his Iranian counterpart Maj. Gen. Mohammed Bagheri by telephone.
They discussed border fences, improved border terminals, increased security and the recent attacks on Pakistani forces near the border, among other problems, according to statements from the Pakistani Army media wing.
On April 20 last year, just days after militants killed 14 bus passengers in an attack along the border with Iran, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the militants behind the attack were based in Iran, calling on Tehran to take action. The attack was claimed by BRAS.
“This new alliance (BRAS) training camp and logistics camp … are inside the Iranian border region,” Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad. Iran denies state involvement.
Just days after Qureshi’s comments, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised press conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who visited Tehran, that the two countries would form a joint rapid response force to combat militant activity on their shared border.
“We agreed to increase security cooperation between the two countries, our border forces, our intelligence forces, and also to form a joint rapid reaction force on the borders of the two countries for fighting terrorism,” Rouhani said.
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