Quetta: Tribal rebels have kidnapped five government officials in southwestern Pakistan to demand an end to military operations in the area, officials said on Sunday.
The kidnapping took place early Sunday in Sorange district, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Quetta, the capital of the oil-rich but impoverished and restive province of Baluchistan.
The outlawed Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility, saying the kidnapping was in retaliation for fresh military operations against the Baloch population in the Kohlu district.
"Five officials of Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation including its Project Director were abducted by armed persons from their residential colony," provincial home secretary Zafarullah Baloch said.
The officials have been taken to an unknown place and teams have been sent to search for them, Baloch said.
Local government officials also confirmed the incident and quoting witnesses said more than two dozen armed insurgents on three vehicles came and surrounded the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) residential colony.
The rebels captured the five officials at gunpoint and also took away two government vehicles, the officials said.
Baloch Liberation Army spokesman Meerak Baloch, speaking by satellite phone to newspaper offices in Quetta, claimed responsibility for the abduction.
"The abduction of government officials is the reaction of newly launched military operation in Kohlu and Chamalung areas and all will be executed one by one if PMDC does not close down its operation in the area," the spokesman said.
Baluchistan has seen an upswing in violence recently, suffering from a separatist insurgency, sectarian violence and Taliban militants.
Hundreds of people have died since rebels rose up in 2004 demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region`s natural oil, gas and mineral resources.