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Pakistan Arrests 57 Tribal Militants in Restive Southwest

Pakistani authorities say police have detained 57 tribal militants suspected of involvement in attacks on government troops and installations in southwestern Baluchistan province.

The authorities say the arrests were made during overnight raids on several hideouts of members of the rebellious Marri tribe near the provincial capital, Quetta.

Sparsely populated Baluchistan has been the scene of frequent bomb and rocket attacks in recent years. Authorities usually blame the violence on ethnic Baluch tribesmen who want greater autonomy and a bigger share of the profits from the region's natural resources.

In an unrelated development, a crowd of angry Pakistanis attacked the Afghan consulate in Quetta. They were protesting a recent killing of 16 people by Afghan security forces on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Chanting slogans against Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the protesters pelted the mission with stones and demanded punishment for those involved.

There are conflicting reports about the identity of the dead. Islamabad says they were Pakistani civilians visiting Afghanistan for a traditional new year holiday.

An Afghan commander (Abdul Razak) said they were Taleban militants who crossed the border from Pakistan Tuesday, and that they included two Taleban commanders believed to have organized several attacks.

But the governor of Kandahar province, where the incident took place, said an initial investigation indicated that the victims were mostly Afghan criminals living in Pakistan.

The incident further deepened a rift between the two countries, with Afghanistan accusing Pakistan of not doing enough to stop militants based in Pakistan from waging attacks on Afghan soil.

Earlier this month, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf accused his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, of being oblivious to events in his own country.

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