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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Suspected rebels blow up train line in Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Suspected militants blew up a railway line in Pakistan's gas-rich Baluchistan province on Wednesday while elsewhere, a protest turned violent as anger over the killing of a nationalist rebel chief simmered.

Violent protests have erupted across Baluchistan province since nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was killed on Saturday in a government assault on his cave hideout in the remote hills of Pakistan's biggest but poorest province.

Bugti led an increasingly violent campaign to win decades-old demands for autonomy and a greater share of profits from the province's resources. The campaign has included attacks on gas facilities, infrastructure and the security forces.

Police and railway officials said militants blew up a railway track in Mastung district, 50 km (30 miles) south of the provincial capital, Quetta.

Elsewhere, protesters set fire to a government savings office and half a dozen shops in Khuzdar town after prayers were held for Bugti, 79, a former provincial governor.

"Police fired into the air and used teargas to disperse the crowd," said witness Abdul Waheed.

Police said city officials had called in paramilitary troops to help restore order. There were no reports of casualties.

Analysts say Bugti's killing is likely to inflame opposition in Baluchistan.

It could also stir nationalist sentiment in other provinces and galvanise broad opposition to President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup.

Protesters also blocked main roads from Quetta to the rest of the country but residents of the city said it was quiet.

Some of the shops that have been closed since the weekend were opening for business, they said.
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