Pakistan troops killed in ambush in Balochistan

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At least 14 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers have been killed and 10 hurt in an ambush in the south-western province of Balochistan, officials say.

The attack took place in the coal-rich Chamalang district, where clashes occurred in recent days.

The army says that separatist rebels are behind the attack.

Baloch rebels have been waging an insurgency for decades, fighting for greater political autonomy and a share of the province's natural resources.

Among the 14 killed was a major from the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC), an FC spokesman told the BBC's Urdu's Ayub Tarin.

He said that most of the soldiers killed were not from Balochistan and came from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

A search operation is under way for the attackers, the spokesman said.

The clash follows an incident on Sunday when a group of Baloch insurgents attacked a different FC camp - also in the Chamalang area.

The Baloch Liberation Army said it carried out the attack, saying that around 40 FC personnel were killed and a number of vehicles destroyed.

The FC says that far fewer of its personnel were killed in the weekend attack.

One report says that troops killed in Monday's attack were guarding a private coal mining venture in the area.

But the army spokesman is quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying a three-vehicle convoy was attacked as it was travelling from Chamalang to Dukhi.

Mineral-rich region

Balochistan, Pakistan's largest and most sparsely populated province, is rich in minerals and has vast untapped deposits of oil, gas, copper and gold.

As well as a separatist insurgency, the province has also been affected by sectarian violence and Taliban suicide attacks.

Last month Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that development and reconciliation were the only ways to stop militancy in Balochistan province.

But correspondents say that there is a growing sense of frustration among unemployed youths in the province who are increasingly joining pro-Taliban militant groups or the separatist insurgency.

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