Six security officials have been killed in an attack in southwest Pakistan when their convoy came under heavy firing in a mountainous area near the border with Iran.
Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province has been hit by a number of attacks on security personnel, but the number of large-scale incidents had decreased significantly since 2016.
The province’s information minister Zahoor Ahmed Buledi told the Reuters news agency on Friday that six members of the Frontier Corps paramilitary force in charge of security in the region were killed in “heavy” firing along a mountainous stretch of road in the Kech district.
Fourteen others were wounded.
The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the Baloch Raji Ajoie Sangar (BRAS), armed Baloch separatist groups, have both claimed responsibility for the attack, in statements emailed to Al Jazeera.
Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, has often been at the centre of attacks by both religious armed groups such as Tehreek-e-Taliban (also known as Pakistan Taliban), and armed ethnic Baloch separatists fighting for independence from Pakistan.
Last month, three men from the separatist Baloch Liberation Army stormed the Chinese embassy in Pakistan’s southern metropolis of Karachi, killing two policemen.
They were shot and killed by police before they could enter the complex with a car packed with explosives.
Despite its rich mineral and natural gas reserves, Balochistan remains Pakistan’s poorest province and is the site of a long-running rebellion by separatists who argue the state is taking over their lands.
The separatists have also targeted Chinese-funded projects in the region.
In July, a suicide bomber detonated in the middle of a crowded election rally in the province, killing 128 people, including electoral candidate Siraj Raisani.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) claimed responsibility for the blast.