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Four Quetta killing suspects killed, seven held

20 February, 2013

QUETTA: Security forces on Tuesday killed four men and arrested seven others accused of killing Shias, including an alleged mastermind of a bomb attack that killed 89 people, officials said.

The operation was carried out on the outskirts of Quetta, where thousands of Shias are demanding army protection and refusing to bury the victims of Saturday's bomb attack on their ethnic Hazara community. "Those who were killed were high-profile target killers," said Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani, adding that one of the masterminds of Saturday's attack was among those in custody.

It was not immediately clear whether the raid would be enough to persuade Shia leaders to call off protests, which have spread to Karachi and forced the closure of the main road to the airport in Islamabad. The arrests came just hours before cabinet ministers were due to arrive in Quetta to try to negotiate an end to the protest, which has seen thousands of men, women and children camp out since late Sunday.

A similar protest after 92 people were killed by suicide bombers at a Hazara snooker hall in Quetta on January 10 only ended after four days when Islamabad sacked the provincial government and imposed governor's rule. The banned militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed both attacks in Quetta. Balochistan Shia Conference Chairman Daud Agha, one of the groups taking part in the protest, expressed satisfaction over the raid.

Hazara areas be declared 'red zone': Malik

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Tuesday that Hazara-dominated areas in Quetta city should be given the status of "red zone" to ensure security of the community. Talking to reporters at the Quetta International Airport soon after his arrival here on Tuesday, Malik said, "The localities in Quetta having population of ethnic Hazara Shia community would have to be declared as red zone in order to maintain security of the community".

He said that red zones of Islamabad and Lahore have been known for their containers and police pickets, but security of people necessitated these arrangements. He said security measures would be taken for the protection of the Hazara community of Quetta on the lines of those taken in Islamabad.

The minister said that the saboteurs had given up target killing by firing and had adopted the strategy of bomb blasts. He said that three banned organisations have set up a syndicate and unleashed new wave of bomb blasts.

"Four months back, I had said that banned organisations had adopted a new strategy to continue their anti-peace activities," Malik said, adding that he was not only providing information but also gave a strategy to curb terrorism. He further said that target killing had declined to 25 percent and kidnappings-for-ransom have also been eliminated in Quetta after the imposition of governor's rule in Balochistan.

End.

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