Police arrest five suspected members of extremist ethnic group in Pakistan

Police seized explosives and arrested five suspected members of an extremist ethnic group over nine bombings in several Pakistan cities, an official said Wednesday. The arrests were made over the past two weeks in eastern Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital, and in Baluchistan, a province in southwestern Pakistan, said Chaudhry Shafqaat Ahmed, top police investigator in Lahore.

About 60 kilograms (130 pounds) of explosives have been seized on information from the arrested men, Ahmed said. Police have filed cases against the suspects for involvement in nine explosions, including two in Lahore and one in Karachi, Ahmed said.

"They belong to the Baluchistan Liberation Army. They believe their rights are being usurped," Ahmed said.

The BLA, an ethnic Baluch group, has claimed responsibility in the past for bombings in Baluchistan, Pakistan's largest but impoverished province, which is rich in minerals. The group demands the central government increase royalties for resources extracted in the province.

On Monday, two other suspected group members confessed to involvement in a car bombing last month outside a building housing a KFC restaurant and a state petroleum company in the southern city of Karachi. The attack left at least three people dead.

The group earlier said it wanted to target Pakistan Petroleum Limited, which operates oil and gas fields in Baluchistan.

In September, two bombs exploded in Lahore, one near a public park and the other in a crowded bazaar, killing eight people and injuring 25. Lahore police had earlier reported that seven other people were arrested over the attacks, but none of them was charged or had given any clues about a possible motive. I.L.

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