Policeman Dies as Blasts Rock Strike-Hit Karachi

762 0 267
                          [Latest Karachi blasts claim
                           two more lives. More in
                           photo caption below]

Policeman Dies As Blasts Rock Strike-Hit Karachi

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - Four bombs exploded in the Pakistani port city of Karachi Wednesday, killing one person and wounding 11 others during a day-long strike called by two political parties, police said.

The worst blast of the day killed one policeman and wounded three others when a device exploded in their vehicle in the early evening.

A policeman at the scene told Reuters the officers had picked up the device before it exploded.

``There was a bomb in the police car...it seems they found a motorcycle helmet that contained an explosive device which blew up,'' the policemen said.

Shortly afterwards a man was seriously injured when a device exploded as he rummaged through a pile of rubbish in a city street, while five others were wounded when a bomb went off in a popular city restaurant, doctors and witnesses said.

``I heard a loud explosion and when we rushed to the restaurant we saw that five of the employees were injured,'' a shopkeeper at the scene said.

All three evening blasts occurred in the wealthy Clifton area of Pakistan's largest city.

Earlier, two people were wounded in another blast after a night of violence in which two people were shot dead and more than a dozen buses torched ahead of the strike.

The strike was called to protest against alleged police brutality Sunday during demonstrations against critical shortages of irrigation water in Sindh province.

No one claimed responsibility for the blasts, although strikes in Pakistan are regularly accompanied by violence.

ARMY PATROLS

Police and paramilitary units, supported by army patrols, were out in force on Karachi's streets. Most shops and businesses were shut, roads were largely deserted and there was little public transport.

Some shopkeepers said they had received visits or telephone calls from unidentified people warning them not to open their businesses Wednesday.

The province-wide strike was called by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jiye Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM).

The MQM, mainly comprising Urdu-speaking Muslim immigrants from India, together with the nationalist JSQM which represents Sindhis, traditional inhabitants of Sindh province, demand greater autonomy for Pakistan's four provinces.

HYDERABAD SHUT DOWN

Sindh's second-largest city, Hyderabad, 160 km (100 miles) northeast of Karachi, was completely shuttered with little traffic reported.

``Three vehicles were burned, two of them government-owned, in early morning violence and there was some shooting (into the air),'' said one Hyderabad resident.

The MQM and JSQM last called a province-wide stoppage against the water shortages in mid-April, when Karachi, capital of Sindh province, and other major cities were brought to a standstill.

That strike was accompanied by two small bomb blasts in Karachi and the burning of dozens of buses.

Various Pakistani political and religious groups regularly call strikes, crippling economic activity, breeding violence and creating a climate of fear.

Pakistan's military government has banned all public rallies and demonstrations and arrested thousands of political activists in recent months.
______________________________________________________
PHOTO CAPTION

Officials investigate the cause of an explosion in Karachi on June 13, 2001, where overnight violence was followed by an explosion which injured two people. At least two persons were shot dead and more than a dozen vehicles were torched as Karachi braced for the latest in a series of strikes aimed at shutting down the city, police and emergency workers said. (Zahid Hussein/Reuters)
_______________________________________________________

Related Articles