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Tribal Insurgents Suspected in Pakistan Pipeline Attack


Officials say suspected insurgents blew up a gas pipeline supplying a major power station in southwestern Pakistan. The attack is the latest challenge to government authority in Baluchistan, where militant tribes are demanding greater control over local resources.

Officials say an explosion ripped through a key natural gas pipeline late Tuesday.

The attack closed down a local power plant, leaving thousands of families in central Baluchistan without electricity.

The plant's regional manager, Imran Khan, says engineers spent hours working to repair the pipeline and restore power.

"I do not know how long it will take," said Imran Khan. "We are not getting any gas supplies from the gas field. The pipe is blown up."

Officials are blaming the explosion on Baluchistan's militant tribal groups. Several groups have been linked to a series of high-profile attacks on government installations.

Tribesman in Pakistan's poorest province have been fighting for a greater share in profits drawn from its rich gas and mineral deposits.

In December the Pakistani army began an anti-insurgency operation after tribal groups fired on a military camp during a visit by President Pervez Musharraf.

Since then, the government says its security forces have overrun militant hideouts. Local residents allege the government is conducting house-to-house raids in several contested towns.

Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao dismisses suggestion the operation targets civilians.

While confirming the military offensive, Mr. Sherpao says it targets only suspected bases for, what he calls, miscreants.

Early last year, similar clashes between security forces and suspected rebel tribes in Baluchistan led to the disruption of gas supplies to most of the country, causing widespread economic losses.

The crisis was defused after several weeks of intensive talks between government politicians and tribal leaders. There is no indication either side is considering another round of negotiations.

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