By Islamuddin Sajid
Pakistani security forces killed a high-value militant commander late Wednesday in an operation in southwestern Balochistan province.
During the operation in the Killi Almas area of Quetta, Salman Badeni, head of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Balochistan, was killed during a firefight.
Badeni was involved in the killing of over 100 members of the Hazara community and police, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistan army, said in a statement.
Two suicide bombers were also killed during the operation.
During the exchange of fire, Colonel Sohail Abid of Military Intelligence was also killed while four other soldiers were injured, two of them critically, the statement said.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi expressed deep grief over Abid’s martyrdom while fighting terrorists in Balochistan, noting that “Pakistan's valiant forces will not rest until the last trace of terrorist elements is eliminated from our soil”.
"Our soldiers have paid the price of freedom with blood, and there is no higher sacrifice than it. We as a nation are united more than ever against the coward enemy," he added.
Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan in terms of land area, has been marred by violence for more than six decades with separatists claiming it was forcibly incorporated into Pakistan upon the end of British rule in 1947.
The province is also a key route for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $54 billion megaproject that aims to connect China's strategically important northwestern Xinxiang province to Balochistan’s Gawadar port 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.
The project has faced opposition from separatists who see this as yet another bid by Islamabad to “steal” their resources with the help of China.
In the past, Chinese workers have been attacked, killed and kidnapped in southwestern and northwestern Pakistan by Baloch separatists and Taliban militants, including in the area of the port in Gawadar.