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QUETTA, Nov 21: At least 15 security personnel were killed and 15 others injured in an attack on a Frontier Corps convoy in Kangri area of Musa Khel district, some 350km northeast of the provincial capital, on Monday.

Officials said an FC major and a non-commissioned officer were among the dead. Fourteen personnel died on the spot and one in Loralai hospital. A spokesman for the FC Balochistan confirmed the ambush and the casualties. “Yes, we have lost our 14 personnel in the attack. Several soldiers were injured, eight of them seriously,” he said. Outlawed Baloch Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Talking to journalists from an unspecified place, the organisation's spokesman Azad Baloch claimed that 40 security personnel had been killed in the ambush.

More troops were dispatched to launch an operation in the area after the incident.

According to sources, the convoy was going to Musa Khel to provide security to newly-found coal reserves in the area. The convoy, led by Major Amir Shahzad, came under the attack before dawn from mountains near Bahlol village in Kingri area.

“The assailants fired several rockets at the convoy. They also used heavy automatic weapons,” the sources said, adding that some attackers were killed when security forces returned fire.

However, there was no official confirmation about casualties on the militants' side.

The sources said that militants had also attacked an FC post and fired a number of rockets at checkpoints in Chamalang area on Sunday night. Security personnel retaliated, but no casualties were reported.

The FC spokesman said in a statement that security team had been sent to the area at the request of local people to protect a mining project in Bahlol village.

He condemned the attack and said the team was going to the area for a peaceful purpose and to protect the project which could play an important role in brining about economic prosperity in the area.

The statement warned what it called “the enemies of Balochistan peace and prosperity” that such attacks would not stop projects launched for development and prosperity of the province. AFP adds:

It was one of the deadliest attacks on Pakistani troops and marked the highest number of military dead in a single incident since March when friendly fire killed 13 soldiers on the northwestern border with Afghanistan.

The military said the troops were guarding a private coalmine and blamed the attack on Baloch rebels.

“Fourteen paramilitary personnel, including a major, were killed and several others wounded. Baloch militants were involved,” a military spokesman said.

Security officials said the rebels were armed with automatic weapons and that most of the soldiers died from gunshot wounds. They said Musa Khel, which is dominated by ethnic Pashtuns and borders the Baloch-dominated district of Kohlu, had seen several private coalmines closed because of tribal disputes.

Troops intervened to resolve those disputes. The coalmines were inaugurated by Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in August and work began with the military providing protection, the officials said.

But Baloch separatist rebels oppose the military presence and there have been a string of attacks on troops in the area.

The scene of Monday's attack is not far from Sui town, where two other soldiers were killed in a bombing on Saturday.