QUETTA: As many as 12 soldiers of the Pakistan Army embraced martyrdom in separate military operations in the Zhob and Sui areas of Balochistan, while seven “heavily armed” militants who reportedly attacked the security forces were also killed, the military’s media wing said in multiple statements on Wednesday.

This was the military’s highest single-day death toll from terrorist attacks reported this year. Before this, 10 personnel were martyred in a ‘fire raid’ in Balochistan’s Kech district in February 2022.

According to a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on late Wednesday night, security forces came under fire from militants in Sui during an operation in the area. “During the fire exchange, three brave soldiers, having fought gallantly, embraced ‘shahadat’ while two terrorists were sent to hell during the operation,” the statement read.

The Sui attack followed a raid on a military installation in Zhob Cantt in the morning, wherein nine soldiers were martyred and five militants were resultantly killed.

ISPR says seven attackers killed in separate incidents; prime minister pays tribute to fallen soldiers

In Zhob, a woman was also killed and at least five civilians received injuries after a Quetta-bound passenger bus was caught in the crossfire. ISPR said that the initial attempt by the assailants “to sneak into the facility was checked by soldiers on duty”.

“In ensuing heavy exchange of fire, the terrorists have been contained into a small area at the boundary,” the ISPR said.

In a follow-up statement issued later on Wednesday night, ISPR said that the security operation at “Zhob Cantt has been completed, and in total five terrorists have been killed during the operation”.

“Security forces and the nation remain resilient and determined to thwart all such dastardly attempts of the enemy aimed at destroying the peace of Balochistan and Pakistan,” the ISPR said.

Citing reports, Zhob Commissioner Saeed Ahmed Umrani said that “five terrorists equipped with heavy automatic weapons” were involved in the attack. “Security forces also suffered casualties in the gun battle which continued till noon,” Mr Umrani told Dawn when contacted.

However, he said that security forces also conducted a search operation in Zhob town and its surrounding areas after receiving information about the presence of suspected terrorists and their facilitators.

Deputy Commissioner Azimullah Kakar confirmed the death of a woman. “The bus which was coming from Dera Ismail Khan was passing through the areas of Zhob cantonment when it was [caught] in the crossfire,” Mr Kakar said, adding that the injured were shifted to Civil Hospital Quetta after initial treatment.

An outfit calling itself the Tehreek Jihad Pakistan (TJP) claimed responsibility for the attack on the Zhob garrison. The same group had earlier claimed responsibility for an attack at an FC camp in the Muslim Bagh area of Qila Abdullah, as well as targeting a police truck on the Quetta-Sukkur highway near Sibi a few months back.

This was the second attack on security forces in Zhob; earlier on July 2, militants attacked three checkposts of police, levies and the Frontier Corps on the Zhob-Dera Ismail Khan highway in the Sherani district of Balochistan. Three policemen and an FC officer were martyred while an attacker was killed.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif paid tribute to the martyred soldiers. He said that their sacrifice for the homeland would be remembered forever, state-run APP reported.

Balochistan Governor Malik Abdul Wali Khan Kakar, Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo and Home Minister Ziaullah Langove in separate statements also condemned the attack.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2023

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