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Pakistan troops destroy militant hideouts: Officials

world Updated: Mar 23, 2009 22:57 IST

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Pakistani troops on Monday destroyed two militant hideouts in the troubled southwestern province of Baluchistan, where a UN official was kidnapped last month, officials said.

A large quantity of weapons, rockets, explosives and communication equipment were found at two secret hideouts used by militants and outlaws, a paramilitary spokesman said. The arms cache was destroyed, he added.

Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, has rich energy resources but is rife with regional insurgency and sectarian violence. The province has also been hit by attacks blamed on Taliban militants.

The operation was launched in Uchh district, some 270 kilometres (167 miles) southeast of provincial capital Quetta, after two soldiers were kidnapped by rebels, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"Our men were kidnapped three days ago while patrolling and during a search operation we found two camps used by miscreants but when we raided them they had already fled," he said.

"We have found a huge cache of arms, explosives, walkie talkies, and SIMs of Thuraya satellite phones from the camps," he added.

Hundreds of people have died in insurgent violence in Baluchistan since 2004, when rebels rose up demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from natural resources.

The New York Times reported last week that US President Barack Obama and his top aides are considering expanding covert operations against Taliban leaders to Baluchistan, in and around Quetta.

Pakistan, which bitterly opposes US missile strikes against militants in its semi-autonomous tribal region on the Afghan border, downplayed the report.

In February, John Solecki, a US citizen and the local head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) was kidnapped in Quetta. Baluch rebels claim to be holding him.