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Pakistani troops kill 22 insurgents in southwest after coordinated attacks over Iran strikes

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QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani security forces killed 22 insurgents this week in an operation against Baloch separatists, who had launched attacks with suicide bombers and gunmen in retaliation for Pakistani strikes on insurgent hideouts in Iran in January, officials said Thursday.

Four security forces and two civilians died when insurgents launched rocket attacks before dawn on Monday on security facilities in Mach, a district in Baluchistan province. The outlawed Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks, which continued until Tuesday night.

Jan Achakzai, a government spokesman in Baluchistan, said the situation in Mach was under control now after the killing of the 22 insurgents.

The violence in Mach came after the BLA threatened to target security forces following Pakistan’s Jan. 18 strikes on their camps in Iran that killed at least nine people. Those strikes were made in response to an Iranian strike in Pakistan that appeared to target a different Baluch militant group with similar separatist goals.

Following the tit-for-tat attacks, both sides agreed Monday to improve their security cooperation, though the two countries had earlier accused each other of providing safe haven to the groups in their respective territories.

Baluchistan in recent days has seen multiple attacks.

Also on Thursday, a bomb exploded in Quetta, killing one man and wounding three others.

Last week, unidentified gunmen shot and killed nine Pakistani laborers in Iran, prompting Pakistan to seek a probe into the killings. The bodies of those laborers were repatriated to Pakistan on Thursday.

It was still unclear who was behind the attack on Saturday in a home in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province. Three Pakistanis wounded in the attack were still being treated at an Iranian hospital.

Tehran handed over the bodies of the slain men at the Taftan border crossing, local government administrator Waqar Kakar said. He said the bodies were being flown to the city of Multan and would be sent from there to their hometowns.

Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, where Islamic militants also have a presence.

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