Pakistan links Quetta 'bomb-making factory' to attacks

Pakistani authorities said Wednesday that a car bomb factory where troops confiscated more than 100 tones of chemicals had been used in recent attacks on troops and minority Shiite Muslims.

Paramilitary troops found wires, detonators and mixers to turn the chemicals into bombs during Tuesday's raid in the city of Quetta, a flashpoint for sectarian, Islamist and separatist attacks.

Eleven people have now been arrested in connection with the case and the owner of the compound has been detained for questioning, said a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC).

Suspects told investigators that potassium chlorate and ammonium chlorate had been packed with wires and detonators into vehicles at the compound, a paramilitary official said.

Experts believe the compound was effectively a bomb-making factory, which had prepared explosives used in recent bomb attacks on military targets and Shiites.

"We have recovered a machine which is basically a mixer, used to mix chemicals to make bombs. We have recovered sulphur and hundreds metre of wire," said the FC spokesman.

"We have also recovered 79 remote controls and short circuit wires. Some 20,000 kilograms of explosive were ready at the factory and just needed to be fitted into vehicles," he added.

On January 10 and February 16, bombers killed nearly 200 people in attacks on Shiites from the ethnic Hazara minority in Quetta.

Oil and gas-rich Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is a flashpoint for violence against Shiites, who make up around 20 percent of Pakistan's overall population of 180 million.

It has also suffered from attacks blamed on Taliban militants and in 2004 Baluch rebels rose up, demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region's mineral resources.