Pakistani forces stormed a hospital that had been taken over by gunmen Saturday in a restive southwestern province, freeing hostages and ending a five-hour standoff that capped a series of attacks that killed 22 people.
The violence emphasized the challenges that new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will have in bringing calm to Baluchistan, a region beset by a separatist movement, Taliban militants and violent sectarian groups. Police said six attackers also were killed in the fighting.
The Baluch long have been alienated by what they see as exploitation by the central government of the oil, natural gas and valuable minerals in the extremely poor and underdeveloped province. The area also has been plagued by horrific attacks by Islamic militants on minority Shiite Muslims, and Afghan Taliban fighters use the territory’s empty, arid landscape as a refuge.
The deadliest attack Saturday took place in the provincial capital of Quetta and appeared to target minority Shiites. A blast ripped through a bus carrying female university students, killing at least 14 people, said the head of police operations, Fayaz Sumbal.