Chronicle of Conflict: The Complete Story of ‘Dara-e-Bolan’ — TBP Feature Report

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On January 29, 2024, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) launched “Operation Dara-e-Bolan” in the Mach and Bolan regions of Balochistan, marking a significant escalation in the region’s conflict. Involving the Majeed Brigade, Special Tactical Operations Squad (STOS), Fateh Squad, and Intelligence Wing, the operation targeted five key locations at 9:00 pm local time. This report aims to comprehensively piece together the events of Operation Dara-e-Bolan from various sources.

  • January 29: The Onset of Operation Dara-e-Bolan

At 9:55 pm local time, the BLA officially announced the commencement of Operation Dara-e-Bolan through a media statement. Residents in Mach, Bolan, and surrounding areas were advised to stay indoors and avoid highways, indicating the anticipated scale of the operation.

Nightfall: Surge of Attacks

Mach city descended into chaos with explosions and gunfire following the operation’s start, leading to the immediate closure of the marketplace and a widespread blackout. CCTV footage captured a massive blast around 9:20 pm, along with armed individuals on the streets. Local police reported intense rocket fire and a substantial contingent of security forces from Quetta was mobilized towards Mach.

Infrastructure Damage and Seizures

By 10:30 pm, Mach Jail and several government buildings had suffered significant damage due to rocket impacts. At 10:48 pm, armed individuals seized control of multiple railway stations in Mach, engaging in significant combat in the Jail Colony.

Around 11:00 pm, near Mashallah Hotel in Kolpur, heavy firing was reported as armed individuals blocked various points across Bolan. Key checkpoints near Mach Cantonment and the Railway Station fell to the armed men, and the main police station in Mach city was overtaken. Armed men also blocked the Quetta to Sibbi highway and NH-65 near Pinjra Bridge, checking every vehicle.

Capture of Key Positions and BLA Claims

The BLA claimed to have captured strategic positions and killed at least 45 personnel of Pakistani forces. They reported detaining several Levies personnel, who were later released with warnings.

Evidence to Support Claims

The BLA released audio and video evidence throughout the night. Audio recordings featured BLA fighters asserting control over key areas, and video footage showed roads across Bolan under BLA control and the detention of Levies Force personnel, who were subsequently released with warnings.

  • January 30: Intensifying Conflict and Pakistan’s Response

In the early morning hours of January 30, a Pakistani military outpost in Peer Ghaib, Bolan, came under heavy attack. The situation in Mach city intensified as Pakistani helicopters patrolled overhead amidst ongoing gunfire.

During this turmoil, a state-backed individual, reportedly a casualty of the BLA’s operation, was found dead in Mach. The deceased was identified as Shakur Rahiju. While, the railway services were suspended in response, and Mach’s SHO, Sajid Solangi, was confirmed dead. Ground visuals indicated widespread destruction in Mach city and along the NH-65 highway.

BLA’s Strategic Maneuvers

At 8:39 am, the BLA announced the deployment of mines on Bolan’s roads, urging the public to avoid travel. They claimed control over the main entry and exit routes and confirmed their attack on the Peer Ghaib army camp, allegedly resulting in over ten soldier casualties. The BLA also asserted complete control of Mach city.

At 9:44 am, a message from the BLA’s commander of Operation Dara-e-Bolan called on Baloch youth to join their struggle. The BLA reinforced their claims with additional audio recordings, asserting control over the area and the seizure of Pakistani weapons.

Balochistan Government Counterclaims

Contradicting the BLA’s narrative and ground reports, the Balochistan government claimed that the militants were retreating. Jan Achakzai, the caretaker provincial information minister, stated that security operations thwarted three BLA attacks, no damage was inflicted on any installations, and there were no casualties among our security forces.

Midday: BLA’s Continued Dominance

By midday, the BLA continued to assert its control over Mach and surrounding areas for 15 hours since the attack began, reporting significant casualties among Pakistani forces and the loss of four of their fighters. They boldly challenged the Pakistani military to confront them in the Mach region.

Updated battlefield audio from BLA fighters claimed that Pakistani forces were unable to face them.

Official Response and Fact Check

In a subsequent statement, the Balochistan interim information minister reported six militant deaths, identifying two as Doda Baloch and Pardan Baloch. However, a fact-check by The Balochistan Post contradicted this claim, stating that Doda Baloch was killed in January 2020 and that the BLA confirmed four deaths, not six, and did not release their names at that time.

Renewed Attacks and BLA’s Continued Assertion

At 5:26 pm, the BLA released another statement, maintaining their control over Mach city and accusing Pakistani forces of indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilians. They reiterated their readiness to confront Pakistani forces.

In response, the ISPR, the media wing of the Pakistan armed forces claimed that Pakistani forces effectively responded to and thwarted BLA attacks in Mach and Kolpur complexes on the night of January 29/30, including suicide bombers, resulting in nine militant deaths.

The evening saw renewed attacks in Mach city around 7:00 pm, with reports of heavy firing and blasts near the Mach Frontier Corps camp. Fighter jets were heard over Quetta, indicating a military response.

At 8:47 pm, the BLA claimed their Majeed Brigade “fidayeen” had infiltrated the main FC camp in Mach city, killing 12 additional Pakistani soldiers. A video released by the BLA at 8:52 pm showed BLA members using the loudspeakers of a local mosque in Mach city, urging the public to stay indoors, countering Pakistani military claims of regaining control.

BLA released further videos of destruction of the railway tracks and Pakistan army installations on its social media channel ‘Hakkal’. Links below:

Military Convoy Ambush

Late in the evening, around 9:00 pm, a convoy of Pakistani military vehicles traveling towards Mach from Sibbi came under fierce attack near Sibbi, marking another significant escalation.

  • January 31: Climax and Concluding Hours of Operation Dara-e-Bolan

BLA’s Continued Assertion of Control

In the early hours of January 31, at 2:55 am, the BLA refuted Pakistani claims about Mach city, insisting that they had maintained control over the city for more than 24 hours. In this statement, the BLA invited both international and Pakistani media to visit Mach city to verify the facts, offering full protection to any media outlet planning such a visit.

Ongoing Conflict Throughout the Night

The night of January 30 into January 31 was marked by massive blasts and heavy gunfire across Mach city. The BLA released a video showing their fighters destroying a railway track in Mach, further demonstrating their active presence in the area.

Visual Confirmation of BLA’s Presence

At 09:47 am, the BLA released another video showing their fighters roaming the streets of Mach city. The Balochistan Post, utilizing local sources for verification, confirmed that the footage was recorded on Tuesday. This video, showcasing identifiable locations within Mach, provided clear visual evidence of the BLA’s control over the city.

Significant Attack on Military Convoy

Later in the day, at 12:56 pm, the BLA released a statement detailing an attack on a Pakistani military convoy of eighteen vehicles from Sibbi. According to the BLA, this convoy, comprising FC (Frontier Corps) forces, police, Levies, and armored vehicles, was ambushed near the Gokurt Hotel on the outskirts of Mach. The attack allegedly resulted in at least four personnel killed and several others injured, causing the convoy to retreat toward Sibbi. The BLA also reported intense ongoing battles involving their Majeed Brigade’s ‘Fidayeen’ (suicide attackers) within the FC Headquarters.

Audio Updates and Video Footage from the Battlefield

Audio recordings released by the BLA included updates from a Fidayee of the Majeed Brigade on the situation inside the FC headquarters. Another audio provided details about a fierce clash with Pakistan Army’s SSG Commandos. The BLA fighter in the audio is saying that they killed five of the SSG commandos and repulsed them. A short video clip also emerged, showing scenes from Tuesday night, where BLA fighters were seen launching rocket attacks on the FC headquarters.

Formal Conclusion of the Operation Announced

By evening, at 7:00 PM, the BLA declared the formal conclusion of Operation Dara-e-Bolan. Their spokesperson, Jeeyand Baloch, announced that the operation, having lasted two days, was successful in achieving all of BLA’s objectives. Consequently, all BLA units were instructed to vacate their positions in Mach city and surrounding areas and return to their base camps. In their statement, the BLA acknowledged the patience, morale, and support of the people of Mach and indicated that civilians could safely come out of their homes post-7:00 PM. The BLA promised to release complete details of the operation to the media soon.

On February 1, BLA released further details on the operation in a press release saying: “385 BLA Fighters Participated, 78 Pakistani Troops Killed in Dara-e-Bolan’ — BLA Calls for Global Cooperation Against ‘Common Enemy.”

‘Operation Dara-e-Bolan’ had two primary objectives, according to BLA. First, it aimed to demonstrate the capability of BLA to liberate a city in Balochistan from Pakistani “occupying” forces and maintain control for two days. BLA asserted that appeals, protests, and human rights pleas were insufficient to address the alleged atrocities committed by the Pakistani forces in Balochistan, emphasizing the need for the Baloch Liberation Army as the legitimate army of the Baloch nation.

As per the statement, the second objective of Operation Dara-e-Bolan was to convey BLA’s message to the nations of the world. “We want to inform the world that if BLA can execute an operation of this scale with its own resources then it can easily crush the occupying forces and force them to withdraw from Baloch motherland with support and help from other nations. Through this operation, we want to inform the institutions and nations that have mutual interests with the Baloch nation that we are ready to work together against the common enemy,” BLA statement reads.

On February 2nd, BLA disclosed the names and details of its slain fighters, who took part in the operation.

On February 1, Pakistani forces reportedly brought dead bodies of the BLA fighters to civil hospital in Quetta. The hospital administration initially rejected to handover the dead bodies to their heirs. But later on Friday they started to hand over the bodies of individuals killed in the recent Operation Dara-e-Bolan, ending a two-day delay. This development came in response to increasing demands from Balochistan residents, who have been gathering in protest outside the hospital to demand the return of the bodies to their families.

Quetta Civil Hospital Begins Handing Over Bodies After Delay

As soon the bodies were taken outside the hospital, a touching tribute unfolded as people laid flowers on the coffins of the deceased and chanted slogans in honor of the BLA fighters killed during ‘Operation Dara-e-Bolan’.

The Broad Implications of Operation Dara-e-Bolan

As Operation Dara-e-Bolan draws to a close, its impact on Balochistan’s already complex conflict landscape is profound and multifaceted. Orchestrated by the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), this operation represents a marked escalation in the scale and sophistication of armed resistance within the region. The unprecedented control of a town near Balochistan’s capital, heavily fortified with military installations, signifies a strategic shift in the BLA’s operational capabilities.

The operation’s scale, reportedly involving nearly 300 BLA fighters in a continuous 48-hour assault over a 70-kilometer radius, is a clear departure from previous insurgent tactics. This shift is further underscored by the BLA’s use of reported advanced weaponry and military vehicles, indicating a significant enhancement in their tactical arsenal.

This operation raises crucial questions about the future trajectory of the conflict in Balochistan. The BLA’s newfound ability to carry out large-scale, coordinated attacks and to hold significant territory for extended periods challenges the existing security paradigm in the region. The implications of these developments are far-reaching, potentially reshaping the political and security discourse in Balochistan.

The operation’s conclusion does not just mark the end of a significant armed operation but also opens a new chapter in the ongoing conflict in Balochistan, the repercussions of which will likely unfold in the years to come.

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