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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pakistani forces kill 25 tribal militants

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP)- Security forces backed by helicopter gunships targeted hideouts of tribal militants accused of blowing up gas pipelines and attacking officials in southwestern Pakistan, killing 25 suspects, a senior Cabinet minister said Wednesday.

The security forces also seized a cache of weapons, including rockets, land mines and other munition during the two-day operation near Sui, a town about 210 miles east of Quetta, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao told The Associated Press.

Sherpao termed the operation "an important success," but did not elaborate.

Abdul Razak Bugti, the spokesman for the Baluchistan government said the victims were supporters of Nawab Akbar Bugti, a tribal elder who is allegedly leading the insurgency in various parts of the province.

He said the security forces suffered no losses in the operation, which began Tuesday and ended Wednesday near Sui, where Pakistan's main gas fields are located and where tribesmen have waged a campaign to press the government to increase royalties for resources such as natural gas extracted from the region.

Ethnic Baluch tribesmen also want the government to roll back plans to establish military garrisons in the province, which authorities say were needed to boost security and protect workers in the gas fields.

Although the government says it has quelled the insurgency in Baluchistan, the continuing violence has raised fears of a repeat of an uprising that rocked the province in the 1970s, when thousands died in a large-scale military operation against rebellious tribesmen.
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