Gunmen Kill 10 at Rally in S. Pakistan

Posted May 22nd, 2012 at 2:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Pakistani officials say unknown gunmen opened fire on a rally in the southern port city of Karachi Tuesday, killing at least 10 people and sparking widespread rioting.

Sindhi nationalists, including the Awami Tehrik political group, had organized the rally to protest graffiti that appeared in recent days in Karachi and nearby Hyderabad. The wall writings demanded a separate province for the area's Urdu-speaking community.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday's violence, in which more than 20 people were also wounded.

Rally organizer Ayaz Latif Palijo blamed disgruntled elements within the Urdu-speaking community for the incident. He also accused Karachi's dominant MQM political party — which consists mainly of Urdu speakers — of being behind the newly-emerged separatist movement and called for another strike Wednesday.

MQM officials have denied being behind the graffiti.

Following the shooting, crowds of angry Pakistanis torched several vehicles and shops, causing businesses to shut down across the city of 18 million people.

Karachi, Pakistan's largest and most commercially important city, has long been the site of sectarian tension between the different language communities. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says some 400 people have died in sectarian violence in the city this year alone — a higher death toll than in all the terrorist attacks across the country. Nearly 1,800 people died in violence in Karachi last year.