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Pakistan Bans BLA as Terrorist Organization

Pakistan has banned a tribal militant group, the Baluchistan Liberation Army, after declaring it a terrorist organization. The underground group has been accused of bombings and attacks against government installations and security forces in resource-rich Baluchistan Province.

The ban on the Baluchistan Liberation Army, or BLA, comes amid growing attacks against security forces and sensitive gas and power installations in the largely backward southwestern province.

The BLA has claimed responsibility for carrying out most of these attacks in recent months, including one early this year in which three Chinese engineers were killed.

The group was established in the 1970's, and is believed to be fighting for more provincial autonomy. It has accused the federal government of exploiting the province's rich natural resources without passing on the benefits to the local population.

The government counters that the BLA's agenda is to disrupt progress and development.

Federal Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao says the group had been under watch, and is being banned for its involvement in acts of violence.

"They were involved in terrorist activities, they were involved in missile attacks and bomb explosions. And they have themselves admitted responsibility for these acts," said Sherpao. "We had kept a watch on them, and now the government has decided to proscribe this organization."

Residents and human rights activists say more than 100 civilians have been killed in Baluchistan since late last year, when security forces launched a crackdown on rebel tribesmen to flush out anyone linked to the BLA.

The government denies allegations it is waging a full-scale military campaign in the region, which borders Afghanistan and Iran.