Aug. 18 - New violence grips Pakistan's commercial hub of Karachi, leaving at least 39 people dead in gang wars and political disputes over two days. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
A fresh wave of violence grips Pakistan's commercial hub of Karachi Thursday. Officials say 39 people have been killed over the past two days. Fighting erupted on Wednesday in and around the old district of Lyari -- which has long been a focus of battles between rival gangs and a stronghold of President Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People's Party. The unrest has now spread to Karachi's west side. It is a mix of gang wars and political violence according to home ministry official, Sharfuddin Memon. Provincial Home Ministry official Sharfuddin Memon SOUNDBITE: Provincial Home Ministry official Sharfuddin Memon: (English) "There is a gang war situation there, and we have seen that they have been actively working in this city for a longer time, and somehow it comes up in the shape of, you know, these groups fighting each other, and again there is a political tension also there. So, these criminal elements, they try to create a situation and exploit the situation for their own benefit." Many civilians are caught in the crossfire. SOUNDBITE: Akbar Hassan, : (Urdu) "May be it (the violence) is a political thing but one can't say surely. We are in trouble. We leave in the morning and we are not sure whether we will return home safely in the evening or not." A top police official said the most recent victims had political connections. Officials said there was evidence some victims had been tortured. A city of more than 18 million, Karachi has a long history of violence, and ethnic, religious and sectarian disputes that can often explode into battles engulfing entire neighborhoods. In July about 300 people were killed - one of the deadliest months in almost two decades. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.