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Islamabad rejects Baluch group’s claim of vegetable market blast

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Ministry Thursday rejected claims by a Baluch separatist group that it carried out a bombing at a market in Islamabad that killed 24 people.
The United Baluch Army (UBA), one of a number of militant separatist outfits from the southwestern province of Baluchistan, said it staged the attack — the deadliest in the Pakistani capital since 2008.
But a spokesman for the ministry dismissed the claim.
“Initial investigations have revealed that the United Baluch Army has no links with yesterday’s attack,” the spokesman said in a statement.
“Accepting responsibility by this organization for the blast is not only surprising but ridiculous.”
A bomb tore through the bustling wholesale fruit and vegetable market on the edge of the capital at around 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday as hundreds of traders gathered to do business.
The UBA statement was the first time a Baluch group had claimed an attack in Islamabad, parts of which are heavily guarded.
Various Baluch groups have waged a bloody insurgency for at least a decade to demand more autonomy, a greater share of their province’s mineral wealth and in some cases full independence.
But their activities have largely been confined to Baluchistan, a huge, sparsely populated province bordering Iran and Afghanistan.
They regularly attack security forces in the province and blow up gas pipelines.
A senior official in Baluchistan said he shared the Interior Ministry’s skepticism about the UBA claim.

Leader of banned group gets Parliament seat
Pakistan’s Election Commission has awarded a parliamentary seat to the leader of a banned sectarian group that activists blame for the deaths of hundreds of people.
Ahmed Ludhianvi will represent the city of Jhang, in Punjab province, the commission ruled.
He came second in the constituency in a general election in May last year but was awarded the seat after the commission ruled that the candidate who came first had been involved in vote rigging and had defaulted on a loan, the commission said in a statement on its website.
Ludhianvi declined to comment on the commission’s Wednesday ruling.
Activists worry that Ludhianvi’s appointment will provide political cover for violent activists from his community and fuel creeping militancy in Punjab, Pakistan’s biggest and wealthiest province and the power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.