QUETTA, Pakistan – Pakistani security forces killed 12 suspected militants Wednesday in a gunfight following the deaths of three soldiers whose vehicle struck a land mine in the country's restive southwest, police said.
The shootout occurred shortly after the soldiers were killed by a land mine near the Pir Koh gas fields, about 240 miles east of Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, said Abdul Samad Lasi, the region's police chief.
"I confirm that 12 terrorists were killed by our forces, and some others managed to escape," Lasi said.
The dead and injured were taken to a hospital, where two soldiers were listed in critical condition, he said.
The Baluchistan Liberation Army — a group fighting for the rights of Baluchistan — claimed responsibility shortly after the attack, according to Mirak Baluch, a purported spokesman. "Yes, we are responsible for it. We will do more attacks in the future," he told The Associated Press by phone from an undisclosed location.
In recent weeks, Pakistani army helicopters and ground troops have raided training bases used by tribesmen suspected in attacks against the government in impoverished, sparsely populated Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran.
Tribesmen want more royalty payments from the central government for resources extracted in the area, and oppose government plans to build new military garrisons there.
The government says the new garrisons are needed to bolster security.
On Saturday, tribesmen fired 18 rockets in Baluchistan. One hit a home, killing a 4-year-old boy and wounding his brother and mother.