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Pakistan kills wanted senior rebel commander

Pakistan kills wanted senior rebel commander

Pakistan's army announced it killed a senior member of the rebel group Laskhar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) in a raid in the province of Balochistan.

A senior military intelligence officer was killed and four soldiers were wounded on Thursday during the operation targeting Salman Baldeni, Balochistan regional chief of LeJ in the provincial capital, Quetta.

According to the army, Baldeni was "involved in the killing of over 100 innocent personnel of the Hazara community".

A spokesman for the group said Baldeni was no longer involved with LeJ. "He wasn't our member," Ali bin Sufyan said, adding Baldeni had joined Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

ISIL did not immediately issue any statement about Badeni.

101 East – Sectarian divide

Revenge attack

The military said two would-be suicide bombers were also killed in the raid, but gave no details.

Hours later, five suicide bombers tried to drive a vehicle laden with ammunition and explosives into a military facility in Quetta city, the army said in a statement.

Troops responded when one of the attackers detonated his explosive at the entrance, Khan Wasey, a local paramilitary spokesman said, and gunfire ensued.

All five attackers were killed, it said, adding the failed attempt was in revenge for the earlier operation.

Earlier this month, members of the Hazara community went on a hunger strike in Quetta to protest a spate of killings targeting them, and to demand greater protection in the resource-rich province that has been plagued by violence and insurgency.

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A group that subscribes to the hardline Takfiri Deobandi school of thought, LeJ considers Shia Muslims apostates and has carried out a number of attacks against the religious minority, notably in the southwestern province.

Targeting Hazara

ISIL has increased its presence in the lawless border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan and has built tactical alliances with local groups such as LeJ in several past attacks.

Also on Thursday, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle hit a security convoy in the northwestern town of Nowshera, wounding at least 14 soldiers and civilians, local police chief Mushtaq Khan said. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

China has expressed concern over violence in Balochistan as it hosts a key route in the $57bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a transport and energy link planned to run from western China to Pakistan's southern deep-water port of Gwadar.

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