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New Pakistan quake kills 12; militants kill 4 troops, military says

KARACHI, Pakistan – A 6.8 magnitude temblor struck southwestern Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 12 people in the same province where several hundred people perished in a major earthquake Tuesday.

Meanwhile, four members of Pakistan's armed forces transporting rations to earthquake victims were shot to death by militants Saturday, the Pakistani military reported. The victims were troops from the paramilitary Frontier Corps. No insurgent group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, in which three other troops were wounded.

Saturday's quake flattened most of the town of Nokjo in Baluchistan province, where at least 15,000 residents live, police said. The death toll from Tuesday’s 7.7 magnitude earthquake in the same province, meanwhile, rose to at least 515 people, officials said.

Most of the houses in the area are made of brick, mud and other nonreinforced materials. Some structures that were damaged Tuesday collapsed on Saturday, officials said. The epicenter for both earthquakes was in Awaran, the worst-hit district.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the latest quake struck the remote area shortly before noon at a depth of 8.4 miles.

Tens of thousands of people were reportedly still waiting to receive food, tents and assistance in heat that has exceeded 105 degrees during the day.

Aid and rescue efforts have been hampered by remote geography, damaged or nonexistent roads, poor communications and separatist insurgents who reportedly are wary that the Pakistani army, which is overseeing aid operations, could use the crisis as a pretext to deploy more troops in the area.

Provincial officials have appealed to militants to let rescue and recovery crews do their job. The province, the largest but least populated in Pakistan, has seen a separatist insurgency for the last decade.

The deadly attack Saturday was the latest in a series during the week. Insurgents have also fired rockets twice at helicopters carrying aid workers or supplies and attacked an aid convoy escorted by government soldiers.

Baluch insurgents, including such groups as the Baluch Liberation Army and Baluch Liberation Front, charge the government with human rights abuses and exploiting the province’s natural resources even as local residents live in poverty. The area is among the most impoverished in the country.

The army and Frontier Corps have moved 1,000 troops into the worst-hit areas, but given the vast distances involved, emergency workers fear people may still be trapped under debris, which could further raise the death toll. Some unofficial estimates place the number of dead at 700 and homeless at over 50,000.

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mark.magnier@latimes.com

Special correspondent Nasir Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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