Four separatists in Balochistan, Pakistan's restive south-western region, killed two naval officers as they boarded their vehicle after buying food items for Iftar at a local market. The personnel were attacked on Monday (19 June) near the site of a major Chinese-funded project, police said on Tuesday.

Three other sailors were reported to have sustained injuries in the ambush when armed men on two motorcycles opened fired in the coastal township of Jiwani, about 80km (50 miles) west of the port city of Gwadar.

The sailors were taking food to a naval base in Jiwani to break their Ramadan fast, senior police officer Abdul Hafeez Baloch said.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is considered holy and Muslims across the world observe the month by fasting from dawn to dusk.

Two sailors were fatally shot, Baloch said. One of them died on the spot while the other succumbed to his injuries as he was being driven to hospital, Reuters cited the official as saying.

According to local media reports, the attackers managed to flee unidentified and unchallenged.

A spokesman for the separatist Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack. No arrests have been made so far.

Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri denounced the killings and called for immediate investigation into the incident.

"We will not bow down before the terrorists," he said.

Security in the region has been stepped up following the attack.

Security forces in the district are often reported to have come under attack from separatists and Islamist militants in the restive region.

The Pakistani government is said to be facing strong hostility from the people of Balochistan ever since the country came into existence in 1947. Pakistan's military has been accused of abuses, including executions, torture, arrests and indiscriminate violence.

 Gwadar port
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier standing guard near the Beijing-funded 'megaport' of Gwadar in south western Pakistan Jean-Herve Deillar/AFP/Getty

The attack came days after Islamic State (Isis) militants claimed responsibility for killing two Chinese nationals in Balochistan in May. The incident was thought to have come as a blow to Pakistan's efforts to guard Chinese workers in the South Asian country.

In two separate attacks in May, Baloch Liberation Army insurgents killed 13 Pakistani labourers working on the CPEC-linked projects in Balochistan, Reuters reported.

The safety of its people has now become a growing concern for Beijing following the recent attack on its nationals. The presence of Chinese workers in Pakistan is further set to increase because of the $57bn China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The flagship "Belt and Road" project is being built through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

The route for the project is reported to give China access to Pakistan's Gwadar port and it is seen as an attempt by Beijing to challenge US economic dominance.