QUETTA, Pakistan – Police arrested 450 rioters who rampaged through this southwestern city Sunday in defiance of a curfew to protest the Pakistani military's overnight killing of a prominent rebel tribal chief, a top police official said.
Rioting in different parts of the Baluchistan provincial capital of Quetta flared for a second straight day, with angry mobs burning shops, banks and police vehicles in response to Saturday's killing of the fugitive ethnic-Baluch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti.
Government forces killed the silver-bearded Bugti, 79, and at least 24 of his supporters during a raid on his cave hide-out in the mountainous Kohlu area, about 220 kilometers (140 miles) east of Quetta. Bugti went into hiding in late 2005 after an attempt was made on the Pakistani president's life.
Quetta police chief Suleman Sayed said 450 people were arrested Sunday in Quetta as security forces tried to crack down on the violence spreading through the city, which was placed under a round-the-clock curfew.
"All forces have been put on alert," Information Minister Mohammed Ali Durrani told privately run Geo TV.
Bugti's son-in-law, Shahid Bugti, a senator in Pakistan's parliament, denounced the killing of the popular tribal chief and demanded the government return his body so his family can bury him.
"This is a very tragic affair for the whole family, the tribe and the people of the whole region," Shahid Bugti told The Associated Press from his father-in-law's family house in Quetta. "We consider him a martyr. He led a very graceful life and he had a graceful death, going out while fighting for his people's rights."
Baluchistan has been wracked by decades of low-level conflict, which has often flared into large-scale clashes, as ethnic-Baluch tribespeople led by Bugti pressed the government for an increased share of wealth from natural resources extracted from the province, including gas, oil and coal.
In recent months, the government has said scores of fighters loyal to Bugti have laid down their weapons and surrendered to authorities as it stepped up attacks against the tribal chief.
The government also accused Bugti of ordering attacks on government installations, including gas refineries, the electricity grid and train lines.
Hostilities escalated in December when militants fired rockets that landed about 300 feet (yards) from President Gen. Pervez Musharraf while he was visiting Kohlu. Bugti went into hiding shortly after.
Violence on Sunday also spread to throughout Baluchistan and to the southern port of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and capital of neighboring Sindh province, where large numbers of Baluch people pelted cars with stones and set tires alight, police said. Extra numbers of police and paramilitary forces have been deployed to Karachi's streets.
The operation that killed Bugti was launched after a land mine blew up a vehicle carrying security forces in Kohlu, said a top security official, who declined to be named because of the sensitive nature of the topic. Four security personnel were wounded in the blast.
Security forces attacked Bugti and up to 80 of his supporters in a cave hide-out following an intercept of a satellite phone call in Kohlu district, the official said. Five soldiers were also killed in the attack on Bugti's hide-out.
Bugti and his supporters were killed when the cave's roof collapsed after it came under heavy fire from Pakistani military forces, said the minister of state for information, Tariq Azeem Khan. No bodies have been retrieved so far.
Bugti, a former Pakistani senator and interior minister as well as governor of Baluchistan, was an articulate spokesman for the Baluch cause. He described Pakistani army forces as "invaders and occupiers" for expanding military garrisons into the region. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Bugti tribesmen fought under his uncompromising leadership.
The government launched an offensive against the Bugti and Marri tribes, whose leaders control swaths of Baluchistan and the army put down a tribal rebellion in 1974, reportedly leaving about 3,000 dead.
Longtime Bugti ally Amanullah Kanrani said the Baluch struggle would continue despite the tribal chief's death.
"The whole Baluch nation is still alive and people have the same sentiments as Nawab Akbar Bugti," said Kanrani, a former senator within Bugti's Jamhoori Watan, or Democratic Nation Party.
"Now with the killing of the leader the struggle will go on."