WASHINGTON - The United States on Tuesday designated militant outfit Balochistan Liberation Army as terrorists after it carried out deadly attacks in several cities of Balochistan.

The State Department said it was classifying the Balochistan Liberation Army as a global terrorist group, making it a crime for anyone in the United States to assist the militants and freezing any US assets they may have.

The Balochistan Liberation Army “is an armed separatist group that targets security forces and civilians, mainly in ethnic Baloch areas of Pakistan,” the State Department said in its designation.

The development comes just weeks before the maiden visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the United States.

Pakistani security forces have been fighting insurgents in Balochistan since 2004, with the militants recently finding a new focus in rallying against China’s investment that is part of its major Belt and Road initiative.

The Balochistan Liberation Army has targeted China in Pakistan multiple times, including a brazen daylight attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi that killed four people in November.

In May, five people including a soldier were killed after gunmen stormed the only five-star hotel in Gwadar, the port city which Pakistan is hoping to develop into a major commercial hub.

Claiming responsibility for the hotel attack, the Balochistan Liberation Army warned China to stop its “exploitative projects in Balochistan” and not to support the “genocide of Baloch people,” threatening further attacks.

On Tuesday also, the State Department statement said: “Additionally, the Department of State has amended the terrorist designations of Jundallah to reflect the group’s new primary name Jaish al-Adl and associated aliases. These aliases have been added to the group’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and as an SDGT under EO 13224.”

“Today’s actions seek to deny Hazzima, BLA, and Jaish al-Adl the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks. All of their property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them.”

The State Department further said that Jundallah, which was designated as an FTO and SDGT in 2010, began using the new name Jaish al-Adl and associated aliases in 2012. Since its inception, the group has engaged in numerous attacks that have killed scores of Iranian civilians and government officials, including a February, 2019 suicide bombing and the October 2018 kidnapping of Iranian security personnel.