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Militants destroy house used by Pakistan's founder

QUETTA, Pakistan – Militants destroyed a historic house associated with the country’s founder early Saturday, shooting dead a guard, in a southwestern hotbed of ethnic nationalist insurgency, a police officer said.

Attackers on motorcycles planted bombs at the 19th century residence in the mountain resort town of Ziarat in Baluchistan province, which then started a fire, said senior police officer Asghar Ali Yousufzai.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah lived in the house before his death in 1948, a year after he led Pakistan to independence. He’s also referred to as Quaid-e-Azam, which means “great leader.”

Three bombs exploded, triggering the blaze that destroyed the building, Yousufzai said. The attackers also shot dead a police guard outside the residency, which had been turned into a museum about Jinnah.

Police found six unexploded explosive devices hours later after firefighters extinguished the fire, Yousufzai said.

The attack took place in Baluchistan province, where Baluch nationalist groups demand greater rights and a share from gas and mineral revenues. The province has also been home to sectarian militant groups and Taliban militants.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack in a statement and expressed his sorrow over the policeman’s death.

The wooden building was constructed in the late 19th century. Pakistan’s founder spent his last two months or so there, and the building was serving as a museum with Jinnah’s belonging and other historical artifacts on display

There had been no previous threat to the historical monument, the chief secretary of the province said on television.

“This tragedy happened which is a huge national loss,” said Babar Fateh Yaqoo. “The people of Ziarat are protesting over this incident.”

Ziarat is about 75 miles north of the provincial capital of Quetta.

Meanwhile, former Pakistan ruler Pervez Musharraf has pleaded not guilty in a case involving his decision to fire senior judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, while he was in power. The prosecution says his actions in the case amounted to terrorism.

A lawyer for Musharraf, Ilyas Siddiqi, said the not guilty plea came during a hearing Saturday at the ex-general’s house which has served as a jail for the former Pakistani leader. The judge read out the charges against Musharraf who then entered his plea.

It is the latest development in Musharraf’s legal troubles since returning to Pakistan in March after living in exile for four years. He took power in a 1999 coup and ruled for nearly a decade before he was forced to step down because of growing discontent with his rule, especially among the legal community because of his decision to dismiss the judges.

He returned to Pakistan in March, intending to stand for elections, but was disqualified. In addition to the judges’ case, he faces charges in the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto and in the killing of a Baluch nationalist.