According to government and security officials, Pakistani forces backed by helicopters killed at least nine separatists after the outlawed group abducted and executed an army officer. The military and local authorities confirmed Thursday that up to 15 insurgents dressed as cops assassinated Col.
Laeeq Mirza was abducted Tuesday while travelling with his family from the town of Ziarat, 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Quetta, Baluchistan’s capital. On Friday, the military provided no updates on the operation.
Mirza was on his way to a tourist resort when members of the outlawed Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), designated a “terrorist” group by the US in 2019, stopped his vehicle and arrested him. The group later claimed that it executed Mirza but let his family members live because they were not involved in the group’s crimes.
Officials from the local government confirmed that the attackers released the colonel’s family members. Two security officials said the insurgents were surrounded near the Harnai and Manga dam areas, where an exchange of fire was still taking place. They requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media. The colonel’s civilian cousin, Umar Javed, who was travelling with him, was also abducted and remains in captivity, according to the military.
The military stated in a statement that it was attempting to locate and rescue the hostage. The killing of the colonel has sparked widespread outrage in Pakistan. President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif have vowed to track down, arrest, and punish those involved in the incident.
For years, Baluchistan has been the site of a low-level insurgency led by the Baluchistan Liberation Army and other separatist groups seeking independence from the Islamabad-based central government. Although the government claims to have put an end to the insurgency, violence in the province has continued. Separatist insurgents attacked two military facilities in Baluchistan in February, killing at least nine soldiers.
In the hours-long firefights and follow-up operations that followed, troops killed all 20 assailants. In April, a female BLA suicide bomber targeted a vehicle carrying Chinese teachers inside a university campus in Karachi, killing three Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver. Since then, Pakistan has arrested or killed dozens of members of the group in Baluchistan raids.