QUETTA, Pakistan – Pakistani security forces backed by helicopter gunships destroyed a camp for suspected tribal militants in the insurgency-wracked southwestern part of the country, killing five suspects and capturing seven others, a government spokesman said Wednesday.
The target of Tuesday's operation was a headquarters and training camp for Baluch militants near Dera Bugti, a remote town about 200 miles southeast of Quetta in Baluchistan province, government spokesman Razaq Bugti said.
The security forces "hit the militant camp with 100 percent accuracy, and the detainees are now being questioned by security officials," he said. He added that security forces had retrieved the bodies of militants and seized a weapons cache and bomb-making materials.
But Nawab Akbar Bugti, who heads the Baluchistan Liberation Army rebel group, claimed the military had killed civilians, not insurgents.
"The army has killed innocent people, including women and children, and we condemn this brutal action," he told The Associated Press by phone from an undisclosed location.
The operation began Tuesday morning and continued for several hours, Razaq Bugti said. The camp had belonged to the Baluchistan Liberation Army, an ethnic-based armed group formed in the 1970s after Pakistan's army quelled a Baluch insurgency.
The group has re-emerged in recent years, claiming it is fighting for Baluchistan's rights and to pressure the central government to increase royalties to the region for resources extracted there, such as natural gas.
Security forces often target suspected tribal militant hideouts. Tuesday's operation came a day after a bomb ripped a through busy city street near a roadside tea stall in Quetta, killing five people and wounding 17.
The increasing violence has raised fears of a repeat of an uprising that rocked Baluchistan in the 1970s, when thousands died in a large-scale military operation against rebellious tribesmen.