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Toll in Karachi violence rises to 76


Islamabad : Ethnic violence triggered by the assassination of a politician in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi entered its fourth day, taking the death toll to 76, police said Thursday.

Men carried out gun and arson attacks in various parts of Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub, hours after assailants shot dead provincial legislator Raza Haider and his bodyguards outside a mosque Monday.

Since then, businesses remained shut and people stayed off the streets in the metropolitan area with a population of 16 million, as gunmen on foot or on motorbikes roamed the city.

Karachi police chief Waseem Ahmed said that the death toll following three days of violence had reached 76. More than 100 people were injured. Angry mobs set on fire dozens of vehicles, shops, pushcarts and petrol pumps.

Karachi has a long history of violence between the ethnic Pushtun population, which hails from the north-western province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and the Urdu-speaking group who migrated from India following Pakistan’s creation in 1947.

Haider was a member of Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a regional political party that represents the Urdu-speaking population.

Gunmen from both groups fired on each other from rooftops in some neighbourhoods, despite paramilitary troops being deployed across the city with orders to shoot on sight.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, that some groups responsible for the trouble in Karachi were linked with Taliban militants.

“Taliban are using the name of Pushtuns,” said Malik. “Karachi is our commercial centre and they (Taliban) are trying to disrupt its peace.”

Malik said that Taliban had captured Kahati, a small hill in the city’s Orangi Town area.

Most of the Taliban are from Pushtun tribes living on the both sides of Pakistan-Afghan border. Law enforcement agencies have detained or killed dozens of Taliban leaders who were hiding in Karachi from the military operations in north-western Pakistan.

In March, Pakistani intelligence agents captured Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a deputy to Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, in Karachi.