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Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Pakistan militants 'target government'
Service of remembrance for victims of Taxila attack
Christians have been the main targets of militants
Police in Pakistan's Punjab province say Islamic militants arrested in connection with attacking Christian targets were planning attacks on the government as well as on foreigners.


The Pakistan Government and the foreigners in the country were to be prime targets for further attacks by those now in custody.

Malik Asaf Hayat, Punjab Police Chief

Punjab Police Chief Malik Asaf Hayat, speaking to journalists, refused to identify who in the government might have been the prime target, saying he did not want to create panic.

The details came out as hundreds of Christians protested against a series of attacks on their community in recent months.

Analysts say Islamic militants have been targeting Christians and foreigners to express their anger at Pakistan's support for the US-led war on terror.

'Highly motivated'

According to the Punjab Police Chief, 12 militants all in their 20's, were arrested in five different districts of Punjab province - Lahore, Liyah, Multan, Muzaffargarh and Mianwali.

He said the arrests were made possible, because one of the three militants involved in the grenade attack on the Christian Hospital in Taxila last week had been rounded up at a police checkpoint.

The man disclosed that a group of 16 pro-Taliban Pakistanis freshly back from Afghanistan, had organised themselves into smaller units, each consisting of three activists.

Pakistani security guard outside church
Christians are calling for greater security

According to Mr Hayat, the hospital in Taxila was chosen because the attackers thought it had attracted heavy foreign investment.

Mr Hayat made clear that the arrested militants were not members of the outlawed Islamic groups nor did they have among them any of wanted terrorists with a price on their head.

But he described them as "highly motivated and extremely unhappy about Pakistan government's policies on Afghanistan".

Eleven people were killed last week in separate attacks on a Christian-missionary run school in the Murree hills northeast of Islamabad, and on a hospital chapel in the town of Taxila.

Christian mourning

Christians held protest marches across the country on Thursday.

Nearly 200 people gathered in Taxila to mourn the victims of the attack on the Christian Hospital chapel last week.

"We have selected this day as a symbol of protest against the ongoing attacks against Christians," Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian rights activist who heads the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, told the French news agency AFP.

Community leaders called for ensuring greater protection for their people.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

09 Aug 02 | South Asia
09 Aug 02 | South Asia
05 Aug 02 | South Asia
28 Oct 01 | South Asia
09 Aug 02 | Cricket
13 Jan 02 | South Asia
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