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US designates Balochistan Liberation Army as global terrorist group

Updated July 02, 2019

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The US makes it a crime for anyone in the country to assist the BLA militants. — AFP/File
The US makes it a crime for anyone in the country to assist the BLA militants. — AFP/File

The United States on Tuesday designated militants fighting Pakistani rule in Balochistan as terrorists after it carried out deadly attacks targeting Chinese interests.

The US State Department said it was classifying the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as a global terrorist group, making it a crime for anyone in the US to assist the militants and freezing any US assets they may have.

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The banned BLA “is an armed group that targets security forces and civilians, mainly in Baloch areas of Pakistan,” the State Department said in its designation.

The security forces have been fighting terrorists in Balochistan since 2004, with the militants recently finding a new focus in rallying against China's investment that is part of its major Belt and Road initiative.

The BLA has targeted Chinese nationals in Pakistan multiple times, including a brazen daylight attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi that killed four people in November 2018.

In May, five people including a soldier were killed after gunmen stormed the only five-star hotel in Gwadar, the port city which Islamabad is hoping to develop into a major commercial hub.

Claiming responsibility for the hotel attack, the BLA warned China to stop its “exploitative projects in Balochistan” and threatened further attacks.

The US designation of the group comes despite vocal concerns by Washington over the Belt and Road initiative, with Washington accusing China of imposing debt traps on developing nations.

Following the US announcement, the Foreign Office (FO) issued a statement, taking note of the designation by the US administration.

"It is hoped that this designation will ensure that BLA’s space to operate is minimised," the statement read.

The FO pointed out that the BLA has been a proscribed entity in Pakistan since 2006.

"It is important that the perpetrators, organisers, financers and external sponsors including those glorifying these acts of terror against Pakistan are held accountable and brought to justice."