Baloch separatist fighters in Pakistan have released a video purporting to show their leader – who the Pakistani government believed it had killed in a raid in August – is alive.
Allah Nazar Baloch, the head of the Baluch Liberation Front (BLF), appeared in a video released on Thursday, denying all claims about his death and vowing to continue to fight.
“For quite some time the government has been issuing propaganda about my death. This is a blatant lie,” said Nazar, who appeared in the video sitting next to an automatic rifle and wearing an ammunition belt.
Two independent sources who have had contact with Nazar, who has been in hiding for years, confirmed it was him in the video, although they did not know when it was filmed.
The BLF is one of several separatist groups that have been fighting against government forces in the mineral-rich Balochistan province for almost a decade.
“We have not seen the video so we cannot comment on it,” said Balochistan Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti.
In September, Bugti said the government believed Nazar had been killed in a military operation in Awaran district in August.
Balochistan is the poorest and least developed Pakistani province, and separatists have been demanding an end to what they say is the exploitation of gas and mineral resources by other parts of Pakistan.
The violent campaign in the southwestern province poses a threat to China’s planned $46bn Pakistani economic corridor, which culminates in the province’s Gwadar port.
The rebels have carried out frequent kidnappings and bombings against government and security targets, including gas pipelines and other infrastructure.
Human rights groups say the military has carried out a campaign of kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial killings of suspected separatists.
In the video, Nazar denounced the Pakistani military intelligence services and the provincial government.
“They’ve turned Balochistan into a slaughterhouse. And the Baloch nation will hold these perpetrators accountable for each and every drop of Baloch martyr’s blood,” said Nazar, speaking in the Balochi language.