February 5, 2006

Bus bomb kills at least 13 in Pakistan

By Shahid Gul Yusufzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - A bomb exploded on a bus in
southwestern Pakistan on Sunday, killing at least 13 people and
wounding 20, the latest incident in worsening separatist
violence in troubled Baluchistan province, officials said.

The blast in a pass at Kolpur, about 60 km (38 miles) south
of Baluchistan's capital Quetta, came hours after eight people
were killed when suspected tribal militants fired rockets into
a town in the province near the country's main gas field.

Hospital officials said there were 13 dead at Quetta
hospital and 20 wounded. Baluchistan police chief Chaudhry
Mohammed Yaqoob said the toll could be higher as he had reports
that people were still trapped in the wreckage of the bus.

He blamed Baluch tribal militants who have stepped up an
insurgency seeking greater autonomy and more benefit from
natural gas resources in the province, which is Pakistan's main

Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told Reuters the
blast was caused by a bomb that may have been hidden in a bag
placed under a seat of the bus, which had been traveling to the
eastern town of Lahore.

Yaqoob said it was apparently a time bomb that exploded in
the rear of the vehicle. "A man may have come on the bus and
left it there and it exploded later," he said.

The bus bombing followed two passenger train derailments in
the past week that killed three people and injured dozens.


The government has ordered inquiries into the train
incidents. Officials said the first derailment a week ago
appeared to have been caused by sabotage and have not ruled out
this in the second, which occurred on Saturday.

The bus attack was the worst incident blamed on tribal
militants since they attacked Pakistan's largest gas field in
the Sui area of Baluchistan last January, killing 15 people and
disrupting fuel supplies to industry for over a week.

On Saturday, tribal militants fired more than 100 rockets
into the town of Sui killing eight people.

Police said this attack damaged 16 houses and killed two
military guards and six civilians and followed a similar rocket
blitz on Friday and Saturday in the nearby town of Dera Bugti.

Sui is the site of Pakistan's main gas field and is about
720 km (450 miles) southwest of Islamabad.

The area's senior administrator, Abdul Samad Lasi, said
militants also blew up a section of gas pipeline and a water
pipeline in a gas field in Dera Bugti overnight, while a land
mine blast on Sunday morning killed a civilian in a nearby

Speaking earlier in response to the rocket attack, Sherpao
said security forces were currently limiting their activity to
defensive action but warned that "this strategy can be changed
for the protection of gas installation and local population."

"Attacks on national installations cannot be tolerated."

The violence came after President Pervez Musharraf on
Friday demanded Baluch tribal leaders disband "private

The military launched a major crackdown on militants in
Baluchistan after a rocket attack on December 14 during a visit
by Musharraf to Kohlu. The crackdown coincided with the
announcement of plans to privatize two gas distribution firms
in Baluchistan.

Baluch nationalists say hundreds of people have been

Analysts say this could be an exaggeration, but the
independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has accused the
government of "gross human rights violations" in Baluchistan.

(Additional reporting by Sheree Sardar, Zeeshan Haider and
Raja Asghar)