News In Depth
Area known stronghold for al Qaida
A stronghold for al Qaida and a hub for Taliban activity, Pakistan's Baluchistan province is a significant, and dangerous, area.
Bordering Afghanistan, it is the largest of Pakistan's four provinces and constitutes roughly 44% of its total land mass, yet less that 5% of its population because of the mountainous terrain and scarcity of water.
Since Pakistan's independence, Baloch nationalist groups and the provincial government have been in conflict - the province wants independence and free state from Pakistan.
Rich in natural gas and oil reserves, its abundance is often a source of separatist feeling by native Balochs, who want more political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region's resources.
Kidnappings plague parts of Baluchistan and north-west Pakistan, where criminals looking for ransom snatch foreigners and locals, sometimes passing their hostages on to Taliban and al Qaida-linked groups.
The area is said to have seen a recent surge in violence, linked to a separatist insurgency, sectarian violence and Taliban militants.
Quetta, the capital of the province, is a known al Qaida stronghold, and Baluchistan is used by the Taliban as a chance to rest, rearm, regroup and recruit for the battles across the border in Helmand, Afghanistan.
The Foreign Office advises against all travel to northern and western Baluchistan - particularly the areas bordering Afghanistan and Iran - and against all but essential travel to Quetta.
Its website warns against a "heightened risk from kidnapping and militant activity" in much of the province, adding: "If you intend to visit these areas you should ensure that you have the necessary permission from the authorities and proper security arrangements in place."