Landmine explosion kills 6 in southwest Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 3 (Reuters) A landmine blast killed six people and wounded 13 in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan, where nationalist rebels have been fighting for decades for autonomy, police said today.

A passenger van carrying civilians hit a landmine near Sui town in the country's main gas-producing area, about 150 miles (240 km) southeast of the provincial capital, Quetta, yesterday.

''All passengers were civilian and they were returning home when the blast happened. Five of them died on the spot,'' Najam Tareen, a senior police officer in Sui, told Reuters, adding a sixth victim died later in hospital.

Police have arrested 10 men in connection with the blast, he said.

The Baluchistan militants regularly attack gas and other energy infrastructure, transport links and security posts.

They accuse the central government of exploiting the province's resources without sharing the benefits among its people.

President Pervez Musharraf has promised to develop the province of sparsely populated deserts and mountains bordering Afghanistan and Iran. He has also announced an amnesty for rebels who surrender and has appealed to tribal leaders to help.

General Musharraf already has his hands full battling pro-Taliban and al Qaeda-linked insurgents in the northwest, while attacks have spread to Islamabad and Karachi two months ahead of general elections due in January.

A missile attack killed at least five people near a madrassa run by pro-Al Qaeda mujahideen in the northwestern Waziristan region, witnesses said yesterday blaming the US, but the Pentagon denied involvement.

That attack came after more than 180 people were killed in fierce fighting in the Swat valley in North West Frontier province between troops and militants led by a pro-Taliban cleric.

Nearly 800 people have been killed in militant-linked violence and there have been at least 23 suicide attacks in the four months since Pakistani commandos stormed the Red Mosque in the capital, Islamabad, to crush a Taliban-style movement.

They include a suicide attack that killed 139 people last month at a rally to welcome former prime minister Benazir Bhutto back after eight years of self-imposed exile to avoid graft charges.


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