Sun, Jan 16, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Pakistani forces respond to assault on gas installation

AP , QUETTA, PAKISTAN

Security forces have mounted a search for assailants who used rockets and mortars to attack a key gas field in southwestern Pakistan, threatening to disrupt supplies across the country, officials said yesterday.

Paramilitary troops were searching homes in villages around the gas field in Sui, a tribal town about 350km southeast of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, said Abdul Sattar Lasi, a local government administrator.

No one has been arrested and no weapons have been seized in the operation that began Friday, after suspected tribal assailants stopped firing rockets and mortars at the gas field.

In almost a week of attacks on the facility, officials have reported that at least eight people were killed, including civilians and soldiers, and 35 others were injured.

Thousands of army and paramilitary troops have been deployed to guard the facility.

Authorities shut supply from the gas field after a pipeline and a compressor plant there were damaged by a fire that was triggered by a rocket attack.

Pakistan Petroleum Ltd, the operator of the Sui gas field, said Friday that the facility suffered more damage than initially estimated. It added some equipment has to be replaced and repair work will take some time before supply is restored.

Meanwhile, authorities in the southern Sindh province, of which the key port city of Karachi is the capital, announced rationing of gas.

Ejaz Wasay, an official at the Sui Southern Gas Company Ltd, which supplies Sindh, said supplies to Karachi and other major cities in the province will be maintained from another plant.

Supply to more than 50 industrial units, including six power generators, textile and cement factories, has been severed, he said.

Rocket attacks against gas fields are common in Baluchistan. The attacks are blamed on tribesmen who are accused of pressing demands for increase in loyalties for resources extracted from their territory.

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