QUETTA: A Pakistani minister said yesterday paramilitary forces killed at least 30 separatist rebels in the restive southwestern province of Baluchistan as part of a fresh operation to quell a long-running insurgency.
The operation was carried out in Dera Bugti area, some 250 kilometres southeast of the capital Quetta.
The death toll could not be independently confirmed.
"The forces surrounded the militants early morning yesterday. It culminated with the killing of 30 militants and arrest of three others," Sarfraz Bugti, home minister in Baluchistan said.
He added that one paramilitary was killed and five wounded during the action.
"We have recovered 350 kilograms of explosive material and 300 kilograms of landmines," he said.
Bugti said the militants were members of the Baluch Republican Army (BRA) and two main commanders were also killed in the operation.
"Two of the BRA commanders were also killed during the action. The forces also freed two local Bugti men kidnapped for ransom by the militants," he added.
Resource-rich Baluchistan is home to a long-running separatist conflict that was revived in 2004, with nationalists seeking to stop what they see as the exploitation of the region's natural resources and alleged rights abuses.
The idea of giving greater autonomy to the province, the size of Italy but with only nine million inhabitants, is highly sensitive in a country still scarred by the independence in 1971 of its eastern portion, now Bangladesh.
Baluchistan is an arid, desert and mountainous region on the Iranian plateau in south-western Asia, northwest of the Arabian Sea.
It mainly includes southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran and a very small section of southwestern Afghanistan. The southern part of Baluchistan is known by its historical name Makran.
Baluchistan is named after the native Baloch tribes who make up the inhabitants in the region and use Balochi as their native language. AFP