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Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Tuesday, 2 September 2008 12:53 UK

Pakistan women's bodies exhumed

A protest in Lahore on 1 September 2008 against the killing of five women in Balochistan
Women's groups have expressed outrage over the killings

Police in Pakistan have exhumed the bodies of two women allegedly buried alive in western Balochistan province.

They have also arrested six people, including some relatives of the women.

Reports from the area say the women were killed in July because they wanted to marry men of their own choice, against the wishes of tribal elders.

Three other women were also reported killed but police have not found their bodies. Human rights groups have expressed outrage at the killings.

On Monday, Pakistan's Senate called for action to be taken against those responsible for what it called "brutal murders".

Last week two senators caused uproar by suggesting that the killings were a matter of tribal tradition.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says in Pakistan's conservative countryside it is not uncommon for male relatives to kill women accused of violating family honour.

But the brutality of the murders, and their unexpected defence in the senate, outraged many, our correspondent says.

Bodies 'dumped'

Police who oversaw the exhumation of the bodies said the two women had bullet wounds and that they had been buried without a shroud.

According to Baloch tribal custom, women killed for "dishonourable acts" are often buried without the white cotton wrap-around shroud.

Map

The two bodies were dumped in the same ditch, police and local sources said.

A senior police officer in Nasirabad district, Shabbir Ahmad Shaikh, told the BBC Urdu service on Monday night that the bodies were recovered from a grave 10km (six miles) from Babakot, the women's village.

Sources in Dera Murad Jamali, the district headquarters, said the bodies were exhumed on Monday night in the presence of police and doctors.

They said both girls had clearly been shot several times, but there was still no clear evidence of whether they had been buried while still alive.

Police said they had arrested at least six people in connection with the murders, including close relatives of the deceased women.

Reports last month said three women aged 18-20 from the Imrani tribe had run away from their homes in Babakot to get married.

The women were kidnapped by some male relatives from a hotel in Usta Mohammad, in neighbouring Jafferabad district, where they had been hiding, the reports said.

Two older women who tried to help the would-be brides were also allegedly kidnapped.

Inquiry ordered

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reported that the women had all been shot, thrown into a ditch and then buried, even though they were still alive.

However, police in Dera Murad Jamali say they have recovered only two bodies.

One official said that if there had been other women, they too would have been buried in the same ditch.

Meanwhile, the interior ministry has ordered a senior police official in Islamabad, Tariq Khosa, to conduct an inquiry into the case.

Mr Khosa is expected to reach Dera Murad Jamali later on Tuesday.


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