POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 1, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 1:35 a.m. HST, Feb 1, 2012
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Gunmen attacked a paramilitary checkpoint in southwestern Pakistan, killing 11 soldiers and increasing tension in an area where a separatist insurgency has raged for decades, the military said Wednesday.
Twelve soldiers were also wounded in the attack Tuesday night in the Marwarh area of Baluchistan province, said the paramilitary Frontier Corps. The troops returned fire, but officials did not indicate whether the attackers suffered any casualties.
A local government official, Fateh Bangalzai, said soldiers discovered the bodies of seven unarmed men near the checkpoint Wednesday morning. Authorities were investigating whether the men were part of the attacking group or civilians caught in the crossfire, said Bangalzai.
Insurgents in Baluchistan have long demanded greater autonomy and a larger share of the province's natural resources.
Pakistan has also been fighting a violent Taliban insurgency over the past few years that aims to topple the government, partly because of its alliance with the United States. It has launched a series of offensives in the northwest along the Afghan border, but the militants have continued their attacks.
Pakistani fighter jets bombed the hideouts of two militant commanders along the Afghan border Wednesday, killing up to 31 insurgents, government and security officials said.
One of those killed was reported to be a Pakistani Taliban leader in Orakzai region named Moin ud Din, said one security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
It was not possible to independently confirm the information because the border region is effectively off-limits to reporters. Militants have in the past disputed army accounts of casualties, and human rights groups say civilians often die in military actions.
There were air strikes in the bordering regions of Kurram and Orakzai, said government officials Wajid Khan and Ameer Gul.
The attacks followed clashes between soldiers and militants over a strategic mountaintop in Kurram that killed over 60 people in the last week.
Associated Press writer Hussain Afzal contributed to this report from Parachinar, Pakistan.