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12 Die in Attacks in Pakistan          10/23 10:55

   QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) -- Attacks in Pakistan's troubled southwestern 
province of Baluchistan, including an assault on the country's beleaguered 
minority Shiites Muslims and a suicide bombing targeting a pro-Taliban cleric, 
killed 12 people on Thursday, police said.

   All the attacks took place in the provincial capital of Quetta.

   In one attack, near a vegetable market on the city's outskirts, four gunmen 
on motorcycles sprayed a minivan carrying Hazara Shiites with gunfire, said 
police chief Aitzaz Goraya.

   Six men died on board the bus while the gunmen chased down another two as 
they tried to flee and shot them dead, Goraya said. Two other people on the bus 
were wounded.

   Pakistani television broadcast footage from the scene, showing police 
removing bodies of the dead and helping the wounded as family members of the 
deceased cried and wailed.

   Hundreds of Hazara later blocked a main road in Quetta to protest the 
killings.

   No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and Goraya said it 
was not clear who was behind it. But suspicion is likely to fall on Sunni 
extremists, who have often targeted Shiites in the past.

   In the past, attacks on Shiites were often claimed by the Sunni militant 
groups Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Pakistani Taliban.

   In June, the Pakistani military launched an offensive in the country's main 
Taliban stronghold in North Waziristan, a tribal region near Afghan border. The 
Taliban have been waging a war against the state there in a bid to topple the 
government and impose their harsh brand of Islamic law, and have killed 
thousands of Pakistanis over the last decade.

   Baluchistan is home to Baluch separatist and nationalist groups that have 
been fighting for autonomy and a greater share of revenues from the region's 
natural resources. A suicide bombing earlier in October in Quetta killed five 
Hazara.

   Goraya and another official, Shahzada Farhat, said the Hazara are often 
given police escorts for security but that those targeted on Thursday were 
unaccompanied because they had not informed the police in advance of their trip.

   Later on Thursday in Quetta, a bomb rigged to a motorcycle exploded near an 
army patrol, killing two civilians and wounding 10 people, including two 
paramilitary soldiers. The bombing happened about two kilometers (1.4 miles) 
away from the site of the attack on the Hazara, said Farhat.

   By dusk, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest next to a 
bullet proof car carrying Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of the 
Taliban-linked Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam religious party, said Baluchistan police 
chief Amlesh Khan.

   Rehman, who had just finished addressing a rally of thousands of supporters 
in Quetta, survived the attack, which killed two people and wounded several 
others, Khan said.

   The religious party is based in Pakistan but has links with the Taliban in 
neighboring Afghanistan. Rehman's religious schools had been one of the main 
breeding grounds for the Afghan Taliban.

   Rehman has previously survived at least two attempts on his life.

   "I never know who wants to kill me," he told Pakistani Geo News TV. "Maybe 
because I talk against America, or because I work for the enforcement of the 
Islamic system."  


(KA)


 
 
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