Pak bans five militant groups in Balochistan

Malik, who is in Balochistan capital Quetta to review the law and order situation following a suicide attack on a Shia rally that killed nearly 70 people, said all groups with the words "liberation", "military" or "lashkar" (militia) in their names will not be allowed to operate in the province.

The banned groups are the Balochistan Republican Army, Baloch Liberation Front, Balochistan Liberation United Front, Baloch Defaee Tanzeem and Lashkar-e-Balochistan. "Today these five groups have been proscribed. They will not be allowed to undertake any activity. Their offices will be closed and action will be taken against their office-bearers," Malik told a news conference.

"Their bank accounts have been frozen," he said. Malik also said the federal government had empowered the Balochistan Chief Minister to use the paramilitary Frontier Corps for targeted actions against militants.

He made it clear that no operations on the lines of those conducted against the Taliban in the northwest were being planned in Balochistan. The Frontier Corps does not have powers to conduct raids or make arrests.

The federal government has given these powers to the Chief Minister to empower the paramilitary force for an initial period of three months, Malik said. Violence has surged in Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, and militant groups have carried out a series of bomb attacks and targeted killings.

The province has also been rocked by sectarian and ethnic violence as Baloch groups have targeted settlers from Punjab. US officials have also said they believe the top leadership of the Afghan Taliban are based in the area around Quetta.

Hundreds of people have died since Baloch national groups launched a violent campaign in 2004 demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the province's abundant natural oil, gas and mineral resources.

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