Pakistani forces killed three militants at the start of a crackdown on sectarian militant group in the southwestern province of Balochistan, officials said on Thursday, following a spate of attacks targeting security forces.
The extremist Sunni Muslim group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), whose roots are in Punjab province, claimed responsibility for gunning down four policemen on Tuesday and four soldiers of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in the city of Quetta on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps said the government had decided to launch an armed operation against LeJ at a late night meeting on Wednesday.
"Three terrorists belonging to LeJ have been killed in an armed clash with Frontier Corps and intelligence personnel," said Khan Wasey, the spokesman for the paramilitary force.
He said the killings took place during a search operation today.
Last year, police killed the leader of the LeJ, Malik Ishaq, signalling a shift in the Pakistani government's strategy for dealing with the group.
Balochistan chief minister Sananullah Zehri condemned the killing of the policemen and soldiers and said "strict actions would be launched against terrorists and their supporters".
Balochistan is Pakistan's poorest and least developed province and has suffered a long-running separatist violence.
Ethnic Baloch activists and human rights groups accuse the military of carrying out a campaign of kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial killing against suspected separatists.