QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani forces killed at least 10 separatist militants in the volatile province of Baluchistan on Monday, paramilitary officials said.
Baluch rebels have waged a decades-long insurgency in the remote, sparsely populated and mineral rich southwest province, bordering Iran.
The Frontier Corps, the main state security force in Baluchistan, said it launched an operation against militant hideouts in the mountainous Panjgur district on Monday morning.
“Ten militants were killed in heavy exchange of fire this morning,” said Frontier Corps spokesman Wasay Khan. “Several militant hideouts were destroyed and three soldiers were also wounded.”
It was impossible to verify official accounts as journalists and independent observers are not allowed to operate freely Baluchistan.
The operation took place after Latif Johar, a member of the separatist Baloch Students Organization (Azad), went on hunger strike 11 days ago to demand the release of the group’s chairman and more than 100 detained members.
In the past three years, bodies of hundreds of members of Baluch political parties, student groups and poets have been discovered across the province, and many more are still missing.
Baluch activists say the bodies are evidence that the army is pursuing a systematic ‘kill and dump’ campaign to crush the separatist movement - a charge the army has repeatedly denied.
Reporting by Gul Yousafzai, Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Maria Golovnina and Simon Cameron-Moore