June 12, 2006

Bomb in Pakistan kills five

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - A bomb blast in the Pakistani
town of Quetta killed five people and wounded 17 on Monday, and
nationalist militants fighting for control of natural resources
were the main suspects.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bomb which police
said was planted on a bicycle left at the side of the road near
a hotel and a police station.

"It was a terrorist act. A high-explosive material was
used," the provincial government's interior minister, Shoaib
Nosherwani, told reporters.

Five people were killed including a woman and a child, he
said. Seventeen were wounded, three critically.

Nosherwani said the target appeared to have been policemen
who often went to the hotel for tea-breaks.

The attack bore the hallmark of the Baluch Liberation Army
(BLA) nationalist rebel group, he said.

"It was the same pattern as the BLA," he said.

Police also said they suspected the BLA was responsible.

The shadowy rebel group is fighting for control of gas
resources in Baluchistan, Pakistan's largest but poorest
province and its biggest source of natural gas. Quetta is the
provincial capital.

"I was sitting outside my shop when a powerful explosion
went off. It completely destroyed three shops," said
Inayatullah, one of the wounded men, from his hospital bed.

Baluch nationalists say the people of the province get
little benefit from its resources, in particular its natural
gas. The BLA has attacked gas facilities, blowing up pipelines,
as well as railway and electricity lines, security checkpoints
and other government targets.

Last month, the BLA claimed responsibility for five bombs
that exploded in a police training camp on the outskirts of
Quetta, killing six policemen.

The government declared the group a terrorist organization
in April.


The rebels have no links to al Qaeda- and Taliban-linked
Islamist fighters based on the border with Afghanistan,
security officials say.

Baluch rebels have waged a low-key insurgency for decades
but their campaign has intensified over the past year. Pakistan
accuses its old rival India of meddling in the province, which
borders Afghanistan.

The government launched a fresh crackdown against the
rebels in December after rockets landed near President Pervez
Musharraf as he was visiting the province.

Baluch nationalists say hundreds of people have been killed
in the government offensive.

Political analysts say that toll might be exaggerated but
many commentators and rights groups have called for talks to
resolve the crisis.

The government mounted a sweeping offensive in the 1970s
aimed at finishing off the rebels.

(Additional reporting by Kamran Haider)