Pakistan coast guard, FC soldiers die in two attacks

AFP, QUETTA, Pakistan

Mon, Jul 29, 2013 - Page 5

Gunmen attacked a coast guard checkpoint in southwestern Pakistan on Saturday, killing seven officials and wounding seven others, officials said.

The incident happened in the Suntsar area of Gwadar District, 1,420km southwest of Quetta, the capital of the oil and gas rich Baluchistan Province that borders Iran and Afghanistan.

“Around 24 gunmen armed with rockets and heavy weapons, attacked the checkpost and killed seven coastguard officials,” Baluchistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani told reporters.

He said at least seven coastguard officials were also injured in the early morning attack.

Tribal police official Muhammad Ali confirmed the attack and casualties, adding that the identity of the attackers was not immediately known.

Senior administration official Abdul Fateh Bhangar said two other coastguard officials were reported missing after the incident.

Meanwhile, volunteers deployed at a Shiite Muslim mosque in Hazara Town, Quetta, shot dead a suicide bomber on Saturday evening as he tried to approach the building, officials said.

“One of the volunteers hit the bomber’s head with a brick while another opened fire on him, killing him on the spot,” senior police official Fayyaz Sumbul told reporters.

He said the would-be bomber, who had strapped explosives around his body, could not detonate himself because of timely action by the volunteers.

He added that police reached the scene immediately and defused the explosives on the man’s body.

Durrani also confirmed the incident.

Quetta is a flashpoint for surging sectarian violence between Pakistan’s majority Sunni Muslims and minority Shiites, who account for about one-fifth of the country’s 180 million people.

The city saw the country’s two bloodiest attacks so far this year.

A giant bomb planted in a water tanker being towed by a tractor killed 90 Shiite Hazaras in February, while another suicide bombing at a snooker club in January killed 92 others.

Both attacks were claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an extremist sectarian outfit responsible for a string of attacks against the Shiite minority.

Baluchistan suffers from both Islamist militancy and a regional insurgency which began in 2004, with rebels demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region’s natural resources.

Elsewhere in the northwest of the country, at least two paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers were killed and 25 others wounded in an attack on their checkpost on Saturday in the town of Tal, close to the North Waziristan tribal region.

“Around 50 militants attacked an FC checkpost and exchanged fire with the soldiers for over two hours, which killed two FC soldiers and wounded 25 others,” a local intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

Another intelligence official also confirmed the incident and said that the attack was repulsed after FC troops retaliated.

He added that 18 militants were killed in retaliatory fire by the FC.

The northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province is on the frontline of a seven-year Taliban insurgency and abuts the semi-autonomous tribal belt, where US drone strikes target Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives.

Washington considers the tribal areas a major hub of Taliban and al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.

Tackling homegrown Islamist militancy is one of the major tasks for Pakistan’s new government, which was sworn in last month.