Five Pakistan Army personnel were martyred in a blast on Sunday from an improvised explosive device (IED) during a clearance operation in Balochistan’s Kahan area, the military’s media wing confirmed.
A press release from the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said the operation was underway since Saturday when the IED exploded close to the leading party.
“Resultantly, Captain Fahad along with four other brave sons of soil, Lance Naik Imtiaz, Sepoy Asghar, Sepoy Mehran and Sepoy Shamoon, have embraced martyrdom, laying their lives in defence of the motherland against an externally perpetrated threat of terrorism,” the press release reads.
The ISPR said that a sanitisation operation was underway in the area to apprehend the perpetrators.
“Such cowardly acts by inimical elements cannot sabotage the hard-earned peace and prosperity in Balochistan.
“Security forces remain determined to challenge their nefarious designs, even at the cost of blood and lives,” the ISPR said.
The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the banned militant Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) group. The BLA is a rebel group operating against the Pakistani state in Balochistan. BLA’s stated aim is complete independence for Balochistan.
Earlier in the day, the ISPR said a terrorist was killed and a soldier martyred during an exchange of fire between militants and security forces in an intelligence-based operation in the Sambaza area of Balochistan’s Zhob district.
According to a statement issued by the ISPR on Sunday morning, the operation, launched on the basis of “credible information”, was continuing for the last 96 hours.
The objective was to “deny terrorists the use of few suspected routes to move across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to sneak into KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) along the interprovincial boundary and target citizens and security forces”, the ISPR added.
As a result of the continuous surveillance and sanitation of the area, a group of terrorists was intercepted in the early hours of Sunday, the ISPR said, adding that “during the establishment of blocking positions to deny the terrorists escape routes, the militants opened fire on the security forces”.
In the ensuing exchange of fire, a terrorist was killed while Sepoy Haq Nawaz was martyred. Two soldiers sustained were injured in the gunfight, the ISPR statement said.
It added that the terrorists were supported by their facilitators from across the border as well through firing and that the sanitisation operation continued in the area to apprehend the remaining perpetrators.
Tributes from officials
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the news about the Kahan martyrs was “heart-wrenching”.
“The perpetrators of terrorism will be brought to justice. Let there be no mistake about it,” he warned.
He also paid “rich tribute” to the sepoy who was martyred in the Zhob gun battle.
He commended the security forces for effective action against terrorists. “The brave sons of the nation are crushing the ambitions of the terrorists,” PM Shehbaz said. “The nation salutes its martyrs.”
The premier condoled with the martyred sepoy’s family. He also prayed for the early recovery of those injured.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also expressed regret over the Kahan incident.
“Pakistan Army officers and men are sacrificing their lives to protect their country,” he said, adding that those who “cleanse the country’s land of terrorists” were national heroes.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari echoed similar sentiments
The PPP co-chairman expressed sympathy and extended condolences to the martyrs’ families.
“Those protecting the country’s soil are the heroes of the nation,” he said.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the nation needed unity at a time when “armed forces and security forces are sacrificing their lives for the defence of the country with great bravery.”
Meanwhile, President Dr Arif Alvi paid tribute to Nawaz. In a statement, the president condoled with the martyr’s heirs and lauded him for his services and sacrifice for the nation.
He reiterated the determination of the nation and security forces for eradicating terrorism from the country.
President Alvi expressed sympathy with the family of the martyred and prayed for the soldier. He also prayed for the early recovery of those who were injured in the operation.
Today’s incidents were reported as Pakistan continues to face the growing threat of terrorism, including incidents involving elements and groups said to be operating from Afghanistan since the militant Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan called off its ceasefire with the government in late November.
In light of the increase in terror incidents, Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo presided over a high-level meeting on Saturday to review the law and order situation in the province.
It was decided during the meeting that strong measures would be taken to curb terrorism and security agencies were directed to keep a vigilant eye on the activities of the banned organisations.
Additional reporting by Tahir Sherani.