Violence kills another 17 in Pakistan economic hub

KARACHI, Aug 21, 2011 (AFP) - At least 17 people were killed over the weekend in Karachi as part of the worst criminal and ethnic violence to hit Pakistan's commercial hub for 16 years, officials said Sunday.

"At least 11 people have been killed in targeted attacks since 9:00 am (0400 GMT) on Saturday," a senior police official told AFP by telephone.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the Lyari slum, a stronghold of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, was tense as violence forced markets and commercial centres to close.

Another official confirmed the casualties and said the bodies of six other kidnapped victims were found dumped in different neighbourhoods on Sunday.

Criminal gangs involved in extortion were now resorting to abductions and dumping the bodies of their victims to "spread panic" in the city, he told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

On Saturday, officials said 65 people had been killed since last Wednesday.

The government has been left struggling for solutions to the worst wave of unrest to sweep the city since 1995, with extra deployments of police and paramilitary officers appearing unable to stem the troubles.

Spiralling unrest is a major source of concern in Pakistan's biggest city, which is used by NATO to ship the bulk of its supplies to troops fighting in Afghanistan and which accounts for around a fifth of the country's GDP.

The violence has been linked to ethnic tensions between the Mohajirs, the Urdu-speaking majority represented by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and Pashtun migrants affiliated to the Awami National Party (ANP).

Karachi, a city of 18 million inhabitants and the country's economic powerhouse, has seen its population explode since independence in 1947.

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