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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Key pipeline blown up in Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan (AFP) - Tribal rebels blew up a major pipeline in restive southwestern Pakistan, disrupting gas supplies to the country's commercial hub of Karachi, officials said.

The pre-dawn blast happened a few kilometers (miles) from a major gas field at Sui town in troubled Baluchistan province, gas company spokesman Enayatullah Khan said on Tuesday.

For nearly two years militants in Baluchistan have been attacking pipelines, railway tracks and government installations to press for more autonomy and a greater share of the province's natural resources.

"It was the main pipeline .... We have reduced the supply of gas to power companies and Karachi steel mills," Khan said.

Monsoon rains and "security issues" could cause a 48-hour delay before supplies are fully restored. Efforts were being made to get gas to domestic and other industrial consumers, he said.

The attack came two days after suspected militants blew up two other pipelines supplying gas to Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province.

The town of Sui is close to the former stronghold of rebel tribal chieftain Nawab Akbar Bugti, who is now a fugitive in the sparsely-populated province's mountains.

The governor of Baluchistan said last week that Pakistani forces have nearly crushed the insurgency, adding that 62 civilians, 42 troops and 84 insurgents had been killed this year.

Other officials and rights groups have said that the unrest has claimed hundreds of lives since it erupted in late 2004.
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