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Violence Continues in Southern Pakistan


Protests continued throughout Pakistan two days after government forces killed a rebel leader during counterinsurgency operations in the southwestern province of Balochistan. A massive strike has virtually shut down the province and opposition lawmakers in the Pakistani capital Islamabad have voiced outrage over the government action.

Thousands of residents in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan observed the strike called to protest the killing of the Baloch nationalist leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti.

The 79-year-old rebel leader was killed during a government air and ground attack on his mountain hideout on Saturday.

His death has sparked three days of violent demonstrations throughout his native Balochistan.

At least two people have been killed and more than 450 others arrested as local police struggle to regain control of the situation.

Bugti was one of the best-known and most popular leaders in Balochistan.

For more than 50 years the tribal chief pushed, often violently, for greater local control over the province's valuable natural resources.

The province, Pakistan's largest but poorest, contains nearly half the country's natural gas deposits.

In Islamabad, opposition lawmakers have expressed outrage over Bugti's death. They accuse the government of murdering a legitimate political opposition leader.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim, member of the opposition Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy, announced plans for another strike.

Fahim said a national day of mourning will be observed on Tuesday, and a nationwide protest strike is scheduled for September first.

Bugti's family says the government has yet to hand over the slain leader's body. But they plan to hold a funeral and memorial service in Quetta, also on Tuesday, in the city's central sports stadium.

The government blamed Bugti for sponsoring terrorist attacks against official installations including gas pipelines and security forces in Balochistan.

Bugti once served as Balochistan's governor and chief minister. He became a fugitive in 2005 after his supporters targeted a gathering where Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf was due to give a speech.

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