- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

QUETTA, PAKISTAN (AP) - The bodies of six slain coal miners were found in southwestern Pakistan on Saturday and a policeman and a civilian were shot dead, police said, as rioting over the slaying of three regional leaders continued for a third day.

Rising tension in Baluchistan, a vast province bordering Afghanistan and Iran, presents another risk to the stability of Pakistan as it faces rising Islamist militancy and serious economic problems.

The dead miners were discovered in a village about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Quetta, the provincial capital. All six men had been shot in the head, police official Abdul Malik said.

It was unclear when they were killed or who was responsible, but Malik said they had all come from other provinces of Pakistan and that the area was a stronghold of ethnic Baluch militants.

Baluch groups fighting for more autonomy for the region are regularly blamed for attacks on outsiders as well as on security forces.

Also Saturday, unidentified gunmen killed a police officer and a civilian in two separate incidents in Quetta, police official Khalid Masood said.

Protesters also torched a string of government buildings and a bank in other towns in the region, police said.

Unrest has wracked the impoverished but resource-rich province since Thursday, when the mutilated bodies of three Baluch nationalist politicians were found.

The U.S. Embassy condemned the deaths of the politicians and said one had helped secure the recent release of an American U.N. worker held for two months by a purported nationalist group.

Baluch activists have accused Pakistan’s shadowy intelligence agencies of killing the trio and dismissed the provincial government’s pledge to investigate as meaningless.

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