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Friday, June 30, 2006

Three tribal militants killed in Pakistan gunbattle

QUETTA, Pakistan, June 30 (Reuters) - Three tribal militants were killed and two seriously wounded in a gunbattle with security forces in Pakistan's troubled southwestern province of Baluchistan on Thursday night, officials said.

Meanwhile, officials denied a claim by tribesmen that they had killed six security forces' personnel and injured six in an attack on a checkpost.

Baluchistan, bordering Iran and Afghanistan, is the largest of Pakistan's four provinces and has the country's largest gas and oil reserves. Tribal chieftains there claim to be fighting for more political rights and control over natural resources.

"Armed tribesmen attacked a security forces position in Nal area late last night using heavy weapons. Security forces returned fire killing three tribesmen and wounded two others," a security official said on Friday.

Nal is close to Kohlu, some 300 km (190 miles) east of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, one of the centres of a tribal revolt.

"The gunbattle lasted for more than two hours and both sides used heavy weapons against each other," the official added.

Baluch militants regularly blow up gas pipelines, rail links and power pylons, and launch attacks on government buildings and army bases in the province. The simmering revolt escalated in December when rebels fired rockets during a visit by President Pervez Musharraf to Kohlu.

Musharraf has announced plans for major infrastructure projects in Baluchistan to win back support.
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