By Aamir Latif
Six Pakistan army troops were killed in a roadside blast during a security operation in southwest Pakistan on Friday, the military said.
The blast occurred in the remote Turbat district of the mineral-rich Balochistan province, where suspected Baloch separatists targeted a security vehicle, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Pakistani army's mouthpiece, said in a statement.
"An Intelligence Base operation was conducted on a terrorist hideout in the Wakai area of Turbat, Balochistan. Terrorists targeted one of the vehicles of security forces through an IED,” killing six security personnel, the statement said.
In an exchange of gunfire, four terrorists were also killed, it added.
The large Balochistan province, which is also considered to cover parts of neighboring Iran and Afghanistan, is strategically important due to the rich presence of copper, zinc and natural gas.
The province has been beset by violence for over six decades, with separatists claiming it was forcibly incorporated into Pakistan upon the end of British rule in 1947.
Balochistan, which makes up 42 percent of Pakistan, is a key route to the $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which aims to connect China's strategically important northwestern Xinxiang province to the port of Gawadar through a network of roads, railways and pipelines to transport cargo, oil, and gas.
The economic corridor will not only provide China cheaper access to Africa and the Middle East but will also earn Pakistan billions of dollars for providing transit facilities to the world’s second-largest economy.