Pakistani officials: Baluch insurgents abduct, kill officer

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QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — The body of a Pakistani army officer, abducted earlier this week by separatist insurgents disguised as security forces, was found Thursday on a remote highway in the restive southwestern Baluchistan province, officials said.

Col. Laeeq Mirza was traveling with his family from the town of Ziarat, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, when the assailants seized them on Tuesday. The family was headed to a tourist resort in the area.

The attackers later that night freed the other family members who raised the alarm about the abduction, but kept the officer.

The outlawed Baluchistan Liberation Army, designated a terrorist group by the United States in 2019, claimed responsibility for the killing. Its claim of responsibility stated that the colonel's family members were not harmed because they were not involved in any crimes against the group.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the killing. The military confirmed that Mirza was “martyred" by his abductors.

The army said that one other family member — Mirza's cousin Umar Javed, who was traveling with him and who was also abducted — remains in captivity. The military was undertaking efforts to find and rescue the hostage, the statement said.

The statement also added that the military had shot and killed two insurgents during the operation to find the hostages.

“We will do our best to trace, arrest and punish those who martyred our army officer," said chief minister in Baluchistan province, Mir Abdul Qadoos Bizenjo.

For years, Baluchistan has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by the Baluchistan Liberation Army and other separatist groups demanding independence from the central government in Islamabad. Although the government says it has quelled the insurgency, violence in the province has persisted.

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