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  • Aug 31st, 2006
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Angry mobs protesting the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti cut off a key highway on Wednesday as the number of arrests in four days rose to nearly 700, police said. Balochistan police Chief Chaudhry Yaqub said demonstrators had blocked the RCD Highway connecting the provincial capital Quetta to the port city of Karachi at four points.

There were, however, no reports on Wednesday of the widespread violence that led to the deaths of at least nine people in the region on the first three days following Bugti's death. Several grenade and bomb attacks had occurred since news of Bugti's death broke late Saturday and angry crowds had fired guns into the air and torched banks, government buildings and vehicles.

Baluch National Party chief Attaullah Mengal warned in a statement that a strike led by the region's four main nationalist parties would continue until the government handed over Bugti's body to his family. But Yaqub said life was returning to normal in the province and witnesses said some shops were open in Quetta although traffic on the normally busy streets was thin.

Authorities also extended the closure of educational institutions for three more days in Quetta, officials said. "We are exercising restraint in the use of force to avoid human losses and local administration officials are trying to persuade demonstrators to lift the blockade," Yaqub told AFP. The authorities had arrested 670 people for inciting violence and for attacks on public and private property since late Saturday, he said.

"We have a large presence of security forces on the streets now to prevent any trouble," he added. Protestors also caused damage to buildings and torch vehicles in the port city of Karachi in neighbouring Sindh province after the killing.

RAILWAY LINE BLOWN UP Suspected militants blew up a railway line in Balochistan on Wednesday while elsewhere, a protest demo turned violent as anger over the killing of a nationalist rebel chief simmered.

Violent protests have erupted across Balochistan province since nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was killed on Saturday in a government assault on his cave hideout in the remote hills of the province.

Police and railway officials said militants blew up a railway track in Mastung district, 50km south of the provincial capital, Quetta. Elsewhere, protesters set fire to a government savings office and half a dozen shops in Khuzdar town after prayers were held for Bugti. "Police fired into the air and used teargas to disperse the crowd," said witness Abdul Waheed.

Police said city officials had called in paramilitary troops to help restore order. There were no reports of casualties. Protesters also blocked main roads from Quetta to the rest of the country but residents of the city said it was quiet. Some of the shops that have been closed since the weekend were opening for business, they said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

Copyright Reuters, 2006

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