Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Gun attacks in Pakistan’s south kill 26

KARACHI, Pakistan – A slew of gun attacks in a major city in southern Pakistan killed at least 26 people, officials said Thursday, rattling a country already tense over a military offensive against Taliban militants in a district near the capital.

The unrest came as President Barack Obama said he was “gravely concerned” about Pakistan’s stability and described its government as “very fragile” — although he did express confidence that the country’s nuclear arsenal was safe from militants.

Ethnic tension was the suspected spark for the gun attacks Wednesday in Karachi, a teeming port city with a volatile history. Much of the tension has been between the Pashtun population, who dominate the country’s militant-infested northwest, and ethnic Urdu-speakers, who are descendants of migrants from India.

The latter are in large part represented by the political party that runs the city, the Muttahida Quami Movement.

The MQM has been outspoken against the Pashtun-dominated Taliban and has warned that the militants are gaining sway in Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub.

The city was largely crippled Wednesday after two MQM activists were gunned down by unknown shooters, sparking street violence. Paramilitary rangers roamed the city’s trouble spots Thursday, as officials said the death toll hit 26. There was concern that funerals set for later in the day could lead to more tension.

Officials and politicians resisted blaming groups beyond criminals.

“Criminals and the mafia want to put the city’s peace on the stake, but all the peaceful citizens should come up to counter such designs,” MQM leader Altaf Hussain said from London, where he is in self-exile.

The rangers arrested more than 25 suspects in the shootings, said Maj. Aurang Zeb, a spokesman for the security forces. He added that educational institutions were ordered shut.

The military, meanwhile, proceeded with an offensive against Taliban militants in Buner, a district some 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Islamabad.

The army said Wednesday that it had retaken the main town in Buner and that more than 50 Taliban fighters and one member of the security forces died in the offensive.

Troops and commandos backed by jet fighters and helicopter gunships were moving toward militant strongholds in the Ambela and Pir Baba areas, an army official said Thursday. The troops were facing resistance at Ambela and some other areas, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

Taliban fighters from the Swat Valley entered Buner earlier this month fresh off a peace deal with the government. The military launched the offensive there Tuesday amid strong U.S. pressure.

The Obama administration, determined to stop militants from using Pakistan as a base to plan attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is asking Congress for more money to aid the Pakistani army.

In a news conference Wednesday marking his first 100 days in office, Obama said Pakistan was potentially unable to deliver basic services to its population such as health care and education.

“We need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis,” Obama said. “We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.”

Still, Obama expressed absolute confidence that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal will be secured, “primarily, initially” because he said he believes Pakistan’s army will do the job. But he left the door open for U.S. action if necessary.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

Search site | Terms of service