Karachi: At least five terrorists of a banned group were killed when Pakistani security forces thwarted at least three coordinated attacks with rockets and sophisticated weapons by militants on a high-security jail in the country's restive Balochistan province, authorities said on Tuesday.
A senior police official said at least 15 rockets were fired at the Central Mach Jail on Monday night where some dangerous militants and death row prisoners have been incarcerated.
Balochistan’s caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai said the Pakistan Army and Frontier Constabulary Balochistan acted swiftly to thwart the attacks during the night.
“Five militants of the Balochistan Liberation Army were killed by security forces during the attack,” he said.
“They fired rockets at the Mach jail building but couldn’t hit the target,” he added.
Unconfirmed reports said at least two policemen were killed while a truck driver was injured in the attack but there was no official confirmation of casualties or injuries.
The rockets were fired from nearby mountains and exploded in different areas of Mach town.
After firing rockets, terrorists attacked a camp of the security forces near the central jail and also entered the Mach railway station.
Announcements were then made from loudspeakers for the people to remain indoors as the firing continued, the official said.
The Inspector General Prisons in Balochistan, Shuja Kasi, confirmed that rockets hit the walls of the residential colony of the Mach jail.
“Mortar shells and rockets exploded close to the walls of the colony,” he said, adding that no casualty was reported so far.
He said at present 800 prisoners were kept in Mach Jail, including some death-row prisoners.
The minister claimed the terrorists were affiliated with the Aslam Acho group, with the Majeed Brigade of the banned Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) group later claiming responsibility for the attack.
One security official said the gun battle between the heavily armed terrorists and forces had lasted for a couple of hours before they fled into the surrounding mountains before daylight broke.
He said no damage was reported to any of the installations.
The attack was an apparent retaliation for Pakistani strikes on what the country said were insurgent hideouts in Iran earlier in January.
The BLA threatened to launch attacks on security forces in Balochistan and elsewhere following Pakistan's January 18 strikes on their camps in Iran that left at least nine persons dead.
The strikes were made in response to an Iranian strike in Pakistan that appeared to target a different Baloch militant group with similar separatist goals.
Pakistan's Balochistan province, as well as Iran's neighbouring Sistan-Baluchistan province, have faced a low-level insurgency by Baloch nationalists for more than two decades.
Although the government says it has quelled the insurgency, violence in the province has persisted.
Iran and Pakistan share a 900-kilometer, largely lawless, border, across which smugglers and militants freely roam.