Quetta: Pakistani forces shot four suspected militants dead on Friday during a skirmish in a Hazara area in the southwestern city of Quetta, authorities said.

Officials in Balochistan province, of which Quetta is capital, said the incident erupted when policemen tried to signal to a group of men on motorbikes to stop in the Hazarganji area of the city.

“Six suspected persons riding on three motorcycles were spotted by police in the Hazarganji area on the outskirts of Quetta. Police officials signalled to them but they opened fire, four militants were killed after police retaliated,” Akbar Harifal, home secretary of the province, told AFP.

“Two of the militants managed to flee in the dark of night. Two policemen also sustained injuries during the clash,” he added.

Police identified the militants as belonging to a group with ties to the militant wing of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).

“The killed militants belonged to the sub group of LeJ, Jaish-e-Islam [JI],” said Wasey Khan, spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC).

“One of the killed militants Doctor Humair was chief of the Quetta chapter of JI,” said Harifal.

LeJ has claimed responsibility for some of the most brazen attacks on Shiites in Pakistan’s recent history, including a January 2013 bombing in Quetta that killed over a hundred members of the Hazara minority group.

Sectarian violence has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade.