Valdosta Daily Times

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December 30, 2012

21 missing Pakistani policemen found shot dead

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Twenty-one tribal policemen believed to have been kidnapped by the Taliban were found shot dead in Pakistan’s troubled northwest tribal region early Sunday, government officials said.

Officials found the bodies shortly after midnight in the Jabai area of Frontier Region Peshawar after being notified by one policeman who escaped, said Naveed Akbar Khan, a top political official in the area. Another policeman was found seriously wounded, said Khan.

The 23 policemen went missing before dawn Thursday when militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons attacked two posts in Frontier Region Peshawar. Two policemen were also killed in the attacks.

Militants lined the policemen up on a cricket pitch late Saturday night and gunned them down, said another local official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban, who have been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for the past few years. The tribal region is the main sanctuary for the Taliban in Pakistan.

On Saturday, an explosion ripped through a passenger bus at a terminal in the southern city of Karachi, killing six people and wounding 52 others, some of whom were in critical condition, said Seemi Jamali, a doctor at the hospital where the victims were being treated.

Police were trying to determine whether the blast, which reduced the bus to a charred skeleton, was caused by a bomb or a gas canister that exploded, said police spokesman Imran Shaukat. Many buses in Pakistan run on natural gas.

Karachi has a long history of political, ethnic and sectarian violence. It is also believed to be home to many Taliban militants who have fled U.S. drone attacks and Pakistani army operations in the country’s northwest.

Also Saturday, a government official said authorities are investigating allegations that cough syrup has killed 33 people over the past three days in eastern Pakistan, the second time in recent months medicine is suspected of causing multiple deaths.

The deaths occurred in the city of Gujranwala and nearby villages, said local official Abdul Jabbar Shaheen. Another 54 people thought to have consumed the syrup are also being treated at city hospitals. Officials believe the victims drank the syrup to get high, he added.

Tests show the victims’ stomachs contained dextromethorphan, a synthetic morphine derivative used in cough syrup that can have mind-altering effects if consumed in large quantities, said Shaheen. Investigators are trying to determine if the victims drank too much syrup, or whether there was a problem with the medicine itself, he said.

Twenty-three people died in the nearby city of Lahore in November after drinking bad cough syrup sold under the brand name Tyno. They were also described at the time as people who consumed the drug to get high.

Shaheen said the cough syrup involved in the incidents in and around Gujranwala was not sold under a single brand. He said some people in the city make cough syrup to sell specifically to drug addicts, and officials are trying to arrest them.

Officials temporarily closed one Lahore-based pharmaceutical company whose cough syrup was found in the possession of some affected in Gujranwala. They are investigating whether it caused any of the deaths, said Shaheen.

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