Ten Pakistani soldiers have been killed by armed rebels in two separate incidents on Saturday in the country’s northwestern and southwestern provinces, the military said.
Six soldiers patrolling near the Afghan border were killed in North Waziristan when the attackers opened fire from the Afghan side, according to a statement by Pakistan military’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
The statement said “terrorists from across the border” fired on a patrol near Gurbaz in the North Waziristan region.
Separately, the military said four paramilitary troops were killed in the southwestern province of Balochistan during a combing operation against the armed fighters.
The rebels fired on the soldiers during the operation between Hushab and Turbat areas in Balochistan. A senior army officer was among those killed.
The North Waziristan ambush was claimed by the Pakistan Taliban, known by the acronym TTP, Reuters news agency said. The group is separate from the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan.
“These are dying efforts of inimical forces while Pakistan moves from stability to enduring peace. It’s time for the world to facilitate regional peace,” Pakistan military’s spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said on Twitter.
The two attacks came days after a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan which focused on Islamabad’s role in helping to broker a political settlement to end the nearly 18-year-old US war in Afghanistan.
Khan expressed his condolences to the families of those killed, and tweeted: “I salute our armed forces personnel who continue to lay down their lives fighting terrorists to keep the nation safe.”
I salute our armed forces personnel who continue to lay down their lives fighting terrorists to keep the nation safe. My condolences & prayers go to the families of the10 brave soldiers, including an officer, martyred fighting terrorists in North Waziristan & Balochistan today.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) July 27, 2019
Pakistan and Afghanistan routinely accuse each other of harbouring groups that carry out attacks across the border.
Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, a charge Pakistan denies, saying it has suffered heavily from the fighting.
Waziristan – once a focal point in the so-called “war on terror” – held provincial elections for the first time earlier this month, a key step in bringing the northwestern region into the political mainstream after years of turmoil fuelled by an armed rebellion.
In recent years, Pakistani forces have conducted a series of operations against armed groups, including the Pakistan Taliban, in the North Waziristan region. While officials say the area has largely been pacified, small scale attacks continue to take place.
Balochistan is an important part of transport and energy projects that form part of China‘s Belt and Road Initiative, which has brought $57bn of investment to Pakistan.
Balochistan is rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist attacks, and a number of armed groups, including the Pakistan Taliban and the Balochistan Liberation Army, operate in the province.