Baloch Insurgents Claim Responsibility for Shooting Down Helicopter Carrying Military

A military helicopter crashed last week in Pakistan carrying six personnel including two officers in Harnai district. Harnai lies to the east of Quetta which is the provincial capital of Balochistan, also a restive province.

The Pakistan Inter-Services Public Relations, the mouthpiece of the Pakistan Army, said the helicopter crashed during a ‘flying mission’ but insurgent group the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) said that its fighters hit the aircraft during a chase, Nikkei Asia reported.

The claim could not be independently verified by the news agency but it shows the struggle Pakistan military is facing in curbing insurgency in Balochistan. The restive Balochistan province has been a problem for successive administrations but the Pakistan army is also accused of torture and human rights violations which have contributed to the trouble.

James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, while speaking to Nikkei Asia also said that if the BLA did strike down the chopper it means that they have access to improvised weaponry, including surface-to-air missiles without which shooting down a chopper is hard.

It also means they had training on how to use such weapons. But experts also pointed out that the BLA could have made the claim in a publicity stunt.

A similar incident occurred in August where a chopper crashed killing Pakistan military personnel and the BLA swooped in to take credit. However, experts and the Pakistan army refuted the claims.

But this also signals that the BLA is gaining strength and is retaliating against the human rights abuses Baloch minorities have been subjected to at the hands of the Pakistan army.

Baloch locals and insurgents have demanded that the Pakistan government halt projects sponsored by the Chinese government under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Quetta and adjoining regions.

Their opposition to projects were made more evident by the suicide bomb blasts in Karachi University in April which killed three Chinese teachers. The BLA in July also kidnapped and executed a lieutenant colonel of the Pakistan Army. In recent times, Pakistan Army soldiers were attacked in the Makran region and while erecting a barbed-wire fence on the Iran border, among other incidents.

(with inputs from Nikkei Asia)

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