QUETTA, Pakistan ( Associated Press) — Pakistani forces expanded their search Monday for the perpetrators of multiple attacks in a restive southwestern province a day earlier that killed six soldiers and wounded 17 civilians.
Abdul Aziz Ukaili, the top government official in the southwestern province of Balochistan, said a total of nine attacks took place in the province on Sunday. He tweeted that no civilians were killed in the attacks. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the acts of violence in Balochistan.
Earlier, the army said in a statement that five soldiers, including an army captain, were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near a security forces vehicle during a cleaning operation in Kahan, a remote area of Balochistan bordering Afghanistan. No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
A sixth soldier was killed in an encounter with the Pakistani Taliban in the Sambaza area of Zhob district, according to a senior police officer, Azfar Mohesar. He said that a terrorist was also killed in the encounter.
In the provincial capital of Quetta, attackers threw a hand grenade at a market near a residential area, wounding 12 people, Mohesar said. Five people were injured in attacks in the cities of Kalat, Khuzdar and Hub in other parts of Balochistan.
The Pakistani Taliban Movement, a paramilitary organization affiliated with the Afghan Taliban, has stepped up attacks across Pakistan since November, when it unilaterally ended a ceasefire accusing the army of violating the ceasefire.
The militant group is an ally of the Afghan Taliban, which seized power in neighboring Afghanistan last year as US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has emboldened the Pakistani Taliban.
Balochistan separatists, not related to the Pakistani Taliban movement, have long waged a low-level insurgency in Islamabad seeking independence from the central government.