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Pakistan: Troops search for attackers after 6 soldiers killed

QUETTA, Pakistan –

Pakistani forces on Monday expanded their search for the perpetrators behind multiple attacks that killed six troops and wounded 17 civilians in a restive southwestern province the previous day.

The top government official in the southwestern Baluchistan province, Abdul Aziz Uqaili, said there a total of nine attacks in the province on Sunday. No civilians were killed in the attacks, he tweeted. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the violence in Baluchistan.

Earlier, the military in a statement said five soldiers, including an army captain, were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near a security forces’ vehicle during a clearance operation in Kahan, a remote area in Baluchistan bordering Afghanistan. No militant group has claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The sixth soldier was killed in a shootout with the Pakistani Taliban in the Sambaza area of Zhob district, according to Azfar Mohesar, a senior police official. A militant was also killed in the shootout, he said.

In the provincial capital of Quetta, 12 people were wounded when assailants threw a hand grenade in a bazaar near a residential area, Mohesar added. Elsewhere in Baluchistan, five people were wounded in attacks in the towns of Kalat, Khuzdar, and Hub.

On Monday, Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Asim Munir and other officials attended the funeral of army Capt. Mohammad Fahad Khan, who was among the soldiers killed in Baluchistan the previous day.

The Pakistani Taliban — known also as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP — have stepped up attacks across Pakistan since November, when they unilaterally ended a cease-fire after accusing the military of violating the truce.

The militant group is an ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in neighboring Afghanistan last year as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban.

Also, unrelated to TTP, separatists in Baluchistan have long waged a low-level insurgency seeking independence from the central government in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Islamabad on Monday issued a security alert for the kingdom’s citizens, advising them to remain careful as there was a threat of attacks in Pakistan. The development came a day after the U.S. Embassy issued a similar warning for its citizens in the capital.

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