QUETTA, Pakistan – Gunfire and rioting broke out for a fourth straight day Tuesday after an emotion-charged funeral service for a prominent tribal chief killed by Pakistani forces. Two police were wounded and dozens of shops destroyed in the violence.
More than 10,000 mourners attended the ceremony in the Baluchistan capital, Quetta, for fugitive tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, who was killed Saturday. His death has sparked days of violent protests that have left at least two people dead and dozens wounded.
Police official Bashir Ahmad initially said two bombs exploded outside the stadium where an emotion-charged service was held for 79-year-old Bugti, whose body has not yet been returned to his family.
But a police officer at the scene, Najmuddin Tarin, later said the blasts were caused by gas cylinders that exploded inside some of the 20 shops set alight by protesters after the ceremony at a Quetta sports stadium.
Gunfire broke out shortly after, wounding two of the scores of police that had deployed to the service to try prevent a repeat of the daily rioting and vandalism that has followed Bugti's death. Police have made at least 500 arrests.
Bugti was a former provincial governor and an articulate champion for greater control by Baluch tribespeople of natural resources extracted in the region. He died after troops attacked his cave in the Kohlu area, about 220 kilometers (140 miles) east of Quetta, officials said. The cave's roof collapsed, killing Bugti and several of his fighters.
Political and religious leaders led thousands into the Quetta stadium for Tuesday's ceremony. An Associated Press reporter at the scene estimated the number of mourners at more than 10,000. Political supporters of Bugti put the figure at more than double.
"Death to Pakistan's army" and "Pakistan will disintegrate, Pakistan will no longer exist" were chanted by the protesters during the service as a Pakistani military helicopter hovered overhead.
Afterward, groups of young men smashed windows throughout the stadium and burned a security guard post. Smoke billowed from surrounding streets as protesters, many with faces covered by scarves, set car tires alight and looted shops. Police fired gunshots into the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
Mir Maqbool Ehmat Lehri, Quetta's mayor and a member of the country's ruling Pakistan Muslim League faction, was chased away on foot from the stadium by Bugti supporters, according to an AP reporter who witnessed the incident.
Bellowing through a loudspeaker, Bugti's son-in-law and Pakistani senator, Agha Shahid Bugti, appealed for calm, yelling: "Anyone who is looting and damaging other's property has nothing to do with us. We are peaceful. They are our enemies."
Meanwhile, the late leader's son, Talal, doubted government claims that his father's body was still trapped under rubble at the scene of Saturday's raid.
"The body may be lying in a hospital. They are telling a lie that it is still in the cave. This is my personal thinking," Talal told AP Television News after arriving in Quetta from Karachi for the prayer service.
Baluchistan, bordering Afghanistan and Iran, has seen decades of conflict as tribespeople led by Bugti pressed for a bigger share of wealth from the province's gas, oil and other resources. Bugti's tribal militia has mounted guerrilla-style resistance as the armed forces have moved to establish garrisons and assert government control over the lawless region.