18 Hindus die in tribal unrest

Quetta, Pakistan -- ROCKETS ploughed into a Hindu temple killing 18 members of the minority community during clashes between tribal rebels and soldiers in troubled south-western Pakistan, officials said today.

Five children and three women were among the victims of last Thursday's firefights in the flashpoint town of Dera Bugti, said Basant Lal Gulshan, a legislator from the ruling Muslim League party.

Another 30 were injured, Gulshan said. The bodies of 17 were cremated Saturday while a child was buried in line with the Hindu faith, he added.

Full details of the battles have been slow to emerge and it was unclear whether the weapons were fired by the clansmen or by the Pakistani paramilitary forces.

Pakistan Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said on Saturday that eight security personnel and 21 tribesmen including two Hindu minority members were killed in the battles, while 34 people were injured.

It was not known how many of the 18 Hindus, if any, were included in the toll.

Baluchistan government spokesman Raziq Bugti also confirmed that 18 Hindus had died on March 17.

Residents have fled from Dera Bugti, about 245km south-east of Quetta, fearing more clashes as security forces continue to face off against the tribesmen.