Police said Saturday they had arrested 57 tribesmen in connection with a string of bomb and rocket attacks in southwest Pakistan that killed more than 250 people in just over a year.
The arrests began Friday and the suspects were being held for questioning, senior police investigator Mujeebur Rahman told reporters in Quetta, the capital of insurgency-wracked Baluchistan province.
“We arrested these 57 suspects from different parts of Quetta in connection with recent acts of terrorism,” he said, adding some were also involved in crimes such as robbery and car theft.
Rahman said most of the detainees belonged to the Marri and Bugti tribes, whose top leaders have been accused by authorities of targeting security forces, government officials and key gas installations to press their demands for more royalties on resources extracted in their territories.
More than 250 people have been killed since the beginning of last year in scores of rocket, bomb and land mine attacks in Quetta and elsewhere in the province, Rahman said. He said the Bugti and Marri tribes were behind these attacks, but gave no further details.
The arrests came after two farmers were killed late Friday when their motorcycle ran over a land mine on a dirt road near Sui, a town about 210 miles east of Quetta where authorities have deployed troops to guard gas facilities, said Abdul Samad Lasi, the district chief.
He accused fighters of a local tribal militant chief, Nawab Akbar Bugti, of laying mines. But he offered no evidence to back up his claim.
Bugti was not immediately available for comment.
Two bombs also exploded late Friday outside the homes of junior government officials in towns in Baluchistan, shattering windows but causing no casualties, police said.
The first bomb exploded under a vehicle parked outside the home of Mohammed Shafi in Mach, about 30 miles southeast of Quetta, police said. The second bomb went off in the nearby town of Mastung, police said.
Separately, some 200 protesters held a rally in Quetta Saturday, throwing stones at the Afghan Consulate in anger over the killing of 16 Pakistani tribesmen by Afghan security forces on Tuesday.
The protesters, mainly relatives of the slain tribesmen, burned a portrait of Afghan President Hamid Karzai before police broke the rally up, said Zahid Afaq, an area police chief. He said no injuries were reported.
Islamabad has protested to Kabul over the killing of its citizens.
Afghan army commander Abdul Razzak said the tribesmen were Taliban and had been killed by his soldiers during a two-hour battle in Afghan territory, near the Pakistani border town of Chaman.
Pakistan has rejected the claim. The killings have deepened a rift in Pakistan-Afghan relations over allegations that Taliban and al-Qaida are launching cross-border attacks from Pakistan.
They also underscored the difficulties the two U.S. allies in the war on terrorism face in containing violence on both sides of their shared border.