QUETTA: Seven soldiers, including a junior commissioned officer, were martyred in a bomb blast and an exchange of fire with militants in Balochistan on Monday night.

Official sources said that six soldiers of the Frontier Corps embraced martyrdom in the Pir Ghaib area between Mach and Dhadhar in Bolan district when an improvised explosive device went off near the vehicle in which they were travelling.

Sources said that the vehicle blew up in the explosion and the six soldiers lost their lives on the spot.

“They were returning to their base from the Pir Ghaib area after routine patrolling when they came under IED attack late on Monday night,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed in a statement on Tuesday. It said that a junior commissioned officer and a civilian driver also embraced martyrdom in the blast.

“Six Frontier Corps personnel were killed in a roadside bomb blast while four others received injuries and have been sent to hospital,” Deputy Commissioner of Bolan Murad Kasi told AFP.

The bomb hit the vehicle during a routine patrol, he added.

Soon after receiving information, FC troops rushed to the site and shifted the bodies to nearby health facilities.

The ISPR identified the martyrs as Naib Subedar Ihsanullah, Naik Zubair Khan, Naik Ijaz Ahmed, Naik Maula Bakhsh, Naik Noor Mohammad and driver Abdul Jabbar.

In another incident, a soldier was martyred during an exchange of fire with militants in the Mand area of Kech district, Makran division, the ISPR said. He was identified as Imdad Ali.

Sources said that security forces had launched search operations in both areas to trace out the militants involved in the incidents.

Meanwhile, hours after the first attack on the troops Mureed Baloch, a spokesman for the outlawed United Baloch Army, claimed res­ponsibility for it, reported the Associated Press.

In a statement, he said the group targeted the soldiers assigned to protect engineers of an oil and gas facility in the region.

Earlier this month, another militant group targeted troops with a roadside bomb in an area of Balochistan near Iran’s border, killing six soldiers, including an army major, AP added.

Balochistan has for years been the scene of a low-level insurgency by militants who allege discrimination and demand a fairer share of the province’s resources and wealth.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2020