August 29, 2006

Firing in Pakistani city after prayers for rebel

By Gul Yousafzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Gunmen and security forces
exchanged fire in the Pakistani city of Quetta on Tuesday as
rioting erupted after prayers were held for a rebel leader
killed at the weekend, police said.

Several people were wounded, police said.

Veteran Baluch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti
was killed in a government assault on his cave hideout in
remote hills in gas-rich Baluchistan province on Saturday.

The government says his body has not been recovered from
the rubble of the cave where he was killed during heavy

Police said about 10,000 people attended the prayers for
Bugti in Quetta, the provincial capital.

As the prayers ended, some of those who attended started
throwing stones at police and setting fire to government
offices, shops and vehicles. Firing soon erupted, the witness

"Some protesters have taken positions on rooftops and they
are firing at the security forces," said the witness.

"I have seen a few wounded people including a policeman hit
by a bullet," he said.

Nationalist rebels waged a low-key insurgency for autonomy
and a greater share of profits from Baluchistan's resources for
decades but have stepped up attacks over the past year.

A former provincial governor respected by many, Bugti went
underground and joined the rebels this year. Violent protest
have swept parts of Baluchistan since he was killed.

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 and
another wounded when unidentified attackers threw a grenade
into his house.


Several policeman had been wounded in the rioting in Quetta
on Tuesday, said deputy provincial police chief Salman Saeed.

"There is a lot of agitation, they're destroying public
property. We're are trying to hold our ground," Saeed told

Earlier, police said suspected rebels had blown up a gas
pipeline and electricity pylons in what appeared to be their
first attack since Bugti's death.

Attackers used high explosive 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 had started, said the officer, who
declined to be identified.

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
Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Monday termed his killing
"extra-judicial murder."

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.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Sharif in ISLAMABAD)