Islamabad: Pakistani paramilitary forces killed three suspected Sunni militants, including a senior commander, in the country`s restive southwest on Tuesday, officials said, following two days of deadly attacks on minority Shiites.
Tuesday`s raid in Quetta in Baluchistan province -- which has been racked by sectarian violence in recent years -- came as authorities arrested 39 suspected militants in a separate operation.
"Our forces raided a compound in the eastern outskirts of Quetta today and killed three militants," a spokesman for the Frontier Corps (FC) force told AFP, adding that troops seized eight hand grenades and five small machine guns.
"One of the dead militants has been identified as Mehmood Rind who was chief of Jaish-ul-Islam sectarian group in Baluchistan," Akbar Hussain Durrani, the provincial home secretary, said.
A night market bombing in the city on Sunday killed one and wounded eight, and was claimed by both Jaish-ul-Islam and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, another high profile anti-Shiite group.
The blast was followed Monday by the gunning down of two Shiite brothers at a passport office and a policeman who was at the scene.
Police and paramilitary forces have rounded up 39 suspects in connection with Monday`s shooting, the FC spokesman said.
Senior police official Abdul Razzaq Cheema confirmed the arrests.
Sectarian violence -- in particular by Sunni hardliners against the Shiites that make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan`s 200 million people -- has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade.
Forty-five Shiite Ismailis were massacred in the southern city of Karachi in May in the first attack in the country claimed by the Islamic State group.
The worst atrocities, however, have been in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, home to some 200,000 Shiites.