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6 Christians Killed in Pakistan Violence

Authorities say six Christians, including four women and a child, have been killed in clashes with Muslims in Pakistan's eastern province of Punjab.

The provincial minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, said a group of radical Muslims burned the homes of Christians in the city of Gojra Saturday, after accusing them of desecrating Islam's holy book, the Koran.

Bhatti said there was no truth to the allegations.

Television footage from the scene showed houses burning and streets strewn with blackened debris. There were also reports of gunfights.

Provincial officials urged both the Muslim and Christian communities to show restraint.

Elsewhere, police said Saturday they had arrested a member of an al-Qaida linked group, suspected of involvement in several attacks including last year's suicide bombing of Islamabad's Marriott Hotel.

Authorities detained Rao Shakir, a suspected member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, on the outskirts of Islamabad this week.

In other news, schools in Pakistan's northwest re-opened Saturday, for the first time in three months.

Schools were closed during intense fighting between Taliban militants and the Pakistan military that erupted after the collapse of a peace deal.

The students said Saturday they were happy to be back in class, although many were still absent. Most of the nearly two million people who fled the fighting have yet to return to the area, which includes Swat Valley, Lower and Upper Dir and other areas of Malakand district.

The militants, who fought to impose strict Islamic law (Sharia) in parts of northwest Pakistan, targeted schools, especially those that taught girls. More than 350 schools were damaged or destroyed.

Students from the damaged schools learned lessons in tents Saturday.

Pakistan's government began allowing the displaced to return, after saying it had cleared parts of the northwest of Taliban militants.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.