May 12, 2006

Detentions mount after blasts kill Pakistani police

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani police detained
close to 30 suspects in overnight raids following a series of
land mine blasts that killed six fellow officers in the
country's troubled southwest, officials said on Friday.

Five landmines exploded in quick succession on Thursday 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 organization by the government last
month, called newspapers offices in Quetta on Thursday 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 on Thursday.

"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."

Critics of Musharraf 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 percent of Pakistan's
total land area, but only accounts for about five percent 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.