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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Bomb blasts rock Karachi
Blast victim carried into a Karachi hospital
Most of Karachi's violence is blamed on sectarian rivalry
A spate of bomb blasts has hit the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, killing one young boy and wounding at least 24 people.

We have given the call for a peaceful strike and condemn these blasts and violence

MQM official Nasreen Jalil
The 12-year-old boy, Shamsur Rehman, was killed when a bomb exploded in a shop in an eastern suburb on Thursday. Reports said six family members were wounded.

A second bomb exploded in a market in a southern Karachi neighbourhood, damaging some cars parked nearby.

The blasts followed two explosions late on Wednesday in different market areas of the city, which wounded at least 18 people, police said.

The violence coincided with a strike called by the ethnic Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in protest at the murder of two of its members last week.

Mob violence

According to the Associated Press news agency, groups of masked men roamed the city overnight, stopping at least 12 vehicles, ordering people to get out, then setting them on fire.

A plain-clothes policeman searches the site of one of the blasts
Authorities are struggling to curb extremism

Soldiers and paramilitary troops were deployed to restore calm and help maintain the peace during Thursday's strike.

The MQM, which represents Urdu-speakers who migrated from India during the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, denied responsibility for the violence.

"We have given the call for a peaceful strike and condemn these blasts and violence," MQM deputy leader Nasreen Jalil was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

Ms Jalil said that 250 members of the group were rounded up in early morning raids.

She herself was arrested but released shortly afterwards.

"The party strongly condemns the police action," she was quoted as saying.

Sectarian divides

The MQM called Thursday's protest after two of its former parliamentarians were shot dead last Saturday.

Paramilitary troops stand near a burning vehicle
Troops have been deployed to try to restore calm

Hundreds of people have died in violent attacks in Karachi, most of these attacks blamed on sectarian rivalry.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who won a mandate to stay in power for five more years on Wednesday, has vowed to end the bloodshed.

Several extremist leaders have been detained and special anti-terrorist laws have been invoked to try suspects.

But the president faces stiff opposition after the vote, which was marred by a controversy over voter turnout and allegations of widespread irregularities.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas
"The police are still investigating"
See also:

02 May 02 | South Asia
US cool on Musharraf vote
01 May 02 | South Asia
Musharraf wins huge backing
26 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pakistan mosque blast kills 12
08 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pakistan doctors in protest strike
19 Mar 02 | South Asia
Pakistan's 'war on extremism' stalled
19 Mar 02 | South Asia
Pakistan's Shia-Sunni divide
30 Jan 99 | South Asia
Why Karachi is so violent
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