Quetta, Pakistan: A roadside bomb killed two soldiers doing relief work on Wednesday in a remote region of southwestern Pakistan where a major earthquake killed at least 376 people last week, and gunmen carried out a pair of attacks on troops distributing aid there, military officials said.
Also in southwestern Balochistan province but far from the earthquake zone, a bomb went off at the Pakistan-Afghan border, killing six people and wounding 11 others, said Pakistani security officials.
The attacks on soldiers providing earthquake assistance highlight the difficulty and danger involved in doing such work in an area where separatists have been battling the army for years.
In the first attack, the bomb blast hit the soldiers’ vehicle near Mashkay, a village in the province’s southwest, the officials said. Their unit had been dispatched to the disaster zone after the magnitude 7.7 earthquake rocked the province on September 24. The bombing also wounded three other soldiers.
Later in the day, militants fired at a checkpoint established as part of relief efforts and troops delivering supplies, said Pakistani military officials. No one was hurt in those attacks, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but suspicion fell on Baluch separatists who have been battling the Pakistani military for years and have claimed responsibility for similar attacks in recent days.
The military has been ferrying aid into the region by helicopter and evacuating the injured, but their increased presence in a particularly contested area at the earthquake’s epicenter has led to renewed clashes.
Awaran district where the quake was centered has been a stronghold of the separatists. Even among Baluchistan residents who aren’t part of the armed conflict, there is strong resentment against the central government, which many residents contend exploits the southwestern province’s oil, natural gas and mineral deposits.
On Saturday, gunmen killed four Pakistani troops carrying rations for earthquake victims.
Last week, militants fired on two helicopters, including one carrying top government officials surveying the damage. No one was wounded in the incidents.
On Wednesday’s bombing at the Pakistan-Afghan border took place at a land crossing located in the Pakistani town of Chaman, some 480 kilometres south of the earthquake zone, said security officials.
The six people who were killed were civilians. The wounded included six Pakistani border guards and five civilians, said the officials, also speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. In addition to separatists, Baluchistan is also home to Islamic militants who periodically carry out attacks against both civilians and Pakistani security forces.