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Friday, December 30, 2005

Tension rises in insurgency-wracked region of Pakistan as attacks kill 3

Khaleej Times: QUETTA, Pakistan - A rocket attack, a shootout, a bombing and an ambush in insurgency-wracked southwestern Pakistan have left two government soldiers and an attacker dead, officials said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Friday�s attacks in Baluchistan province, where ethnic Baluch militants often target government buildings, railway tracks and paramilitary forces as part of a campaign to get more royalty payments for resources extracted in their areas.

The militants also oppose plans by the central government to build new military garrisons in Baluchistan, a mineral-rich but otherwise impoverished province of which Quetta is the capital.

Tension has been on the rise in Baluchistan since security forces backed by helicopter gunships dismantled alleged rebel hide-outs in Kolhu, east of the provincial capital, earlier this month. Tribal elders say the raids left dozens dead, including innocent women and children, a charge authorities deny.

In the latest attacks, assailants shot and killed two security forces as they drove through Khuzdar, a town 300 kilometers (180 miles) southeast of Quetta on Friday, said Rahmat Ullah Hasni, a local police official.

Two rockets also slammed near a camp of government soldiers in Kolhu, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) east of Quetta, said Lt. Col. Hassan Jamil, spokesman for the Frontier Corps, adding no one was injured.

He blamed restive tribesmen for the attack.

Hours later, tribesmen attacked a Frontier Corps post in Dera Bugi, triggering a shootout that left one attacker dead, said Abdul Samad Lasi, an official.

He gave no details about the clash in Dera Bugti, where the country�s main gas pipelines are located.

Also Friday, a bomb damaged a wall of a power grid station in Hub, 700 kilometers (435 miles) southeast of Quetta, said police official Jamil Ahmad.

He didn�t say who carried out the attack, but the Baluchistan Liberation Army - a group that claims to speak for the rights of Baluchistan - has claimed responsibility for attacks in recent weeks in Kolhu and elsewhere.

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