Pakistani separatists kill two naval officers in troubled Baluchistan

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani separatists riding motorcycles killed two naval officers in the restive southwestern province of Baluchistan, police officials said on Tuesday, near the site of a major Chinese-funded project.

Senior police officer Abdul Hafeez Baloch said four armed men on Monday attacked a vehicle taking food to a naval base in the costal town of Jewani, about 80 km (50 miles) west of the port city of Gwadar.

“One officer died on the spot while another succumbed while being moved to hospital,” Baloch said, adding that three officers were wounded in the attack.

A spokesman for the separatist Baluch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Baluchistan, which has rich mineral and natural gas reserves but remains Pakistan’s poorest province, is the site of long-running rebellion by separatists who argue the state is taking over their lands and have targeted Chinese-funded projects.

Beijing has pledged $57 billion for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship “Belt and Road” project that first focused on Chinese firms building roads and power stations but is now expanding to include setting up industries.

Gwadar, which houses a natural deep-water port, is central to the establishment of the corridor and is among the most guarded areas in the country.

In May, BLA insurgents gunned down 13 Pakistani laborers working on CPEC-linked projects in Baluchistan in two separate attacks.

Taliban and other Islamist militants also operate in the province, which shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran.

Last month, Islamic State militants abducted and killed two Chinese nationals in Quetta, Baluchistan’s provincial capital.

Pakistan’s interior ministry later said the couple were preachers who had not registered with the government and turned down security offers.

The attack prompted Pakistan to boost security around Chinese nationals and other foreigners.

Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Nick Macfie