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Pak detains dozens after police school blasts

Written by: Staff
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Quetta (Pakistan), May 12: Pakistan detained about 30 suspects in overnight raids after a series of landmine blasts in the country's troubled southwest killed six policemen, officials said today.

Five landmines exploded in quick succession yesterday as commandoes of police Anti-Terrorist Force were training at a school on the outskirts of Quetta, capital of the restive Baluchistan province.

An outlawed Baluch militant group, fighting for more autonomy and more benefits from oil and gas exploration in the region, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Police detained two men hours after the blasts, and 27 more were rounded up in raids overnight in and around Quetta.

''These people have track records of involvement in such activities,'' a senior police official said on condition of anonymity, adding that it was a case of picking up the usual suspects and hoping interrogations turned up a link.

A spokesman for the Baluch Liberation Army, a militant group listed as a terrorist organisation by the government last month, called newspapers offices in Quetta yesterday to claim responsibility for the blasts and warned of more attacks.

Militants regularly blow up gas pipelines, rail links and power pylons, and launch rocket attacks on government buildings and army bases in the province.

A simmering revolt in the province flared in December when rebel tribesmen fired rockets at a Baluch town during a visit by President Pervez Musharraf.

Musharraf has announced plans for major infrastructure projects in Baluchistan to win back support in the poorest of Pakistan's four provinces but authorities have vowed to deal sternly with the militants.

''This crime will not deter the government and its agencies from pursuing their resolve to purge the society of anti-state elements, criminals and terrorists,'' Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said in a statement late yesterday.

''The writ of the government shall prevail and these elements who are trying to disrupt the development agenda of the government would not be allowed to succeed in their nefarious designs.'' Musharraf's critics say hundreds of people have been killed during an army campaign to quell the tribes, but analysts say the numbers are probably exaggerated.

Baluchistan makes up more than 43 per cent of Pakistan's total land area, but only accounts for about five per cent of its people.

Baluchis complain of a lack of political representation and resent their land's resources being used to benefit Pakistan's other provinces, most notably Punjab.

Reuters

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