August 29, 2006

Suspected Pakistani rebels attack gas lines

By Gul Yousafzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Suspected rebels blew up a gas
pipeline and electricity pylons in the gas-rich Pakistani
province of Baluchistan as supporters of a rebel leader killed
at the weekend prepared to hold prayers for him.

Nationalist rebels have waged a low-key insurgency for
autonomy and a greater share of profits from Baluchistan's
resources for decades.

The Monday night attacks appeared to be the first by the
rebels since veteran Baluch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan
Bugti was killed in a government assault on his cave hideout in
remote hills on Saturday.

The attackers used high explosives to blow up the pipeline
and power pylons outside the city of Qalat, cutting its gas and
power supplies.

"These were strong explosions. A 12-foot (3.6-meter) long
piece of the pipeline was blown away," said a police officer in
the city.

Repair work on the gas and electricity lines had started,
said the officer, who declined to be identified.

Violent protest have swept parts of Baluchistan since Bugti
was killed but there were no reports of trouble on Tuesday

Protesters have torched government offices, vehicles and
homes and shops of people from outside the province. A settler
from Punjab province was killed on Monday.

In the provincial capital, Quetta, unidentified attackers
threw a grenade into the home of settlers from Punjab on Monday
evening, seriously wounding a man, police said.

Bugti was killed in an air and ground assault by security

Government officials said security forces had not targeted
Bugti but he was killed when explosives went off during heavy
fighting in a cave, which then collapsed.

But political analysts and opposition politicians dismissed
the government explanation and said his killing appeared to
have been intentional.

Opposition politicians, speaking in parliament in the
capital, Islamabad, on Monday termed his killing
"extra-judicial murder."

Bugti's body has yet to be recovered. The government says
rubble in the cave is slowly being cleared.

His supporters said they would hold prayers for him in
Quetta later on Tuesday.

Opposition politicians in Islamabad said they, too, would
hold prayers for Bugti, after a debate of no-confidence in
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

The no-confidence debate was scheduled before Bugti's death
but his killing is expected to be discussed in the assembly.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Sharif in ISLAMABAD)