November 30, 2008 / 10:27 AM / 11 years ago

Rivals clash in Pakistan's Karachi, 13 dead

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Thirteen people have been killed and about 50 wounded in clashes between members of rival ethnic groups in the Pakistani city of Karachi and police have been ordered to shoot troublemakers on sight.

Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial capital and home to its main port, has a long history of political, ethnic and religious violence and the weekend clashes will raise fears of a return to the regular bloodshed that plagued the city in the 1990s.

The latest strife is between the city’s majority community of Urdu-speakers, most descendents of migrants from India at the time of the partition of the British-ruled sub-continent in 1947, and ethnic Pashtuns from northwest Pakistan.

“Thirteen 13 people have been killed in the violence between the two ethnic groups,” Karachi police chief Wasim Ahmed told Reuters on Sunday.

Mobs attacked shops and set fire to numerous cars in different parts of the city and 100 people had been arrested. Authorities had issued orders to shoot rioters on sight, he said.

Tension has been rising since leaders of the Urdu-speaking community began saying Taliban militants, most of whom are ethnic Pashtun, were gaining strength in the city.

Gun battles between rival activists erupted on Saturday in several places, and several incidents of violence on Sunday, police said.

A large number of Pashtuns and members of other Pakistani ethnic groups have flocked to Karachi over the years in search of work. Pashtuns dominate the city’s transport network.

A political party representing Urdu-speakers, who are known as mohajirs, which means refugees, has been the dominant political force in the city since the 1980s.

Reporting by Imtiaz Shah; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Robert Birsel and Valerie Lee

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