Authorities in Pakistan’s turbulent southwestern Baluchistan province found the body of a senior serving military officer Thursday, two days after he was kidnapped by insurgents there.
Officials said the slain officer, identified as Lieutenant Colonel Laeeq Baig Mirza, was abducted on Tuesday while he was traveling in a vehicle with his family to the tourist resort of Ziarat, about 100 kilometers northeast of the provincial capital, Quetta.
The armed assailants freed Laeeq’s family members before forcing him into one of their vehicles and driving away, according to local sources.
The military’s media wing, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), later confirmed that a male cousin of the officer was also among the hostages.
Pakistani troops and helicopters were quickly dispatched to the area to rescue the officer and track down his abductors. Local security officials said the massive search operation ended Thursday morning, with recovering Laeeq’s body and luggage.
“Determined to recover the innocent civilian hostage and apprehend perpetrators, (a) sanitization operation in the area by security forces continues unabated despite bad weather conditions,” the ISPR said.
The outlawed Baluchistan Liberation Army group claimed responsibility for the attack.
The BLA routinely carries out roadside bombings and ambushes against security forces in the sparsely populated, natural resource-rich province, Pakistan’s largest. However, the deadly hostage-taking incident involving a senior army officer is unprecedented, said residents and officials in Baluchistan.
Provincial Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo in a statement condemned the killing of the military man as a “cowardly act of the terrorists” and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.
Baluchistan is among the regions in Pakistan where China has invested billions of dollars over the past seven years in large-scale infrastructure development projects under Beijing’s global Belt and Road Initiative.
The bilateral program, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, has built road networks and power plants across Pakistan and the Gwadar deep-water port in the turbulent province.
The BLA and other banned insurgent groups operating in Baluchistan oppose Chinese investments there, claiming Beijing and Islamabad are depriving people in the impoverished region of their natural resources.
Pakistan dismisses insurgent claims and accuses rival India of supporting and funding them to undermine the corridor, accusations that New Delhi rejects.
In April, a female BLA suicide bomber killed three Chinese nationals in the southern port city of Karachi.