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Bugti was not target: Aziz

Islamabad, Aug. 28: Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz today said yesterday’s military operation in Baluchistan was not directed against nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti even as angry protests flared across the province.

Bugti was hiding in a cave in the hilly Kohlu district of Baluchistan with his commanders when army helicopters bombarded the hideout on Saturday.

Media reports claimed that more than 60 militant commanders and at least 25 special services group commandos were killed in the incident.

Aziz said security officials were unaware that Bugti was in the cave, adding that they retaliated after being fired at by militants in the cave.

The Pakistan Prime Minister, who insisted that the operation was not directed against any individual, said the government had sent heavy machinery and engineers to the area in order to recover bodies from the rubble. “The government will hand over Bugti’s body to his family members as and when it was found,” he said.

Aziz’s remarks came as the Opposition Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) called a nationwide strike on September 1. Political parties in the gas-rich southwestern province also called for a protest strike.

Protesters in the provincial capital, Quetta, and other places across the province set fire to offices, vehicles and shops belonging to people from outside Baluchistan, police said.

A barber from Punjab province was killed when protesters attacked his shop, police said, and nine people were wounded in an exchange of fire with police elsewhere.

“Violence has continued throughout the province, especially in Baluch-populated areas,” provincial interior minister Shoaib Nausherwani said. “We’re trying to control the situation peacefully but there have been clashes.”

Main road links between Baluchistan and other parts of the country had been blocked by protesters.

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