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Friday, December 11, 1998 Published at 17:43 GMT

World: South Asia

Police claim Karachi violence arrest

Armed operation in Karachi on 6 December

Pakistani police have said they have arrested a major figure in the militant wing of the MQM, the organisation they blame for much of the violence in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.

The police are describing the man, Saulat Mirza, as a prize catch. He was arrested when he arrived at Karachi airport.

He was produced at a news conference after his interrogation. He admitted killing a number of people, including a Pakistani employee of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency in 1995. But he denied involvement in the killing of six US nationals in the city.

Two US consular officials were shot dead in Karachi in 1995 and four American employees of the oil company Union Texas, were killed in 1997.

Mr Mirza told journalists it had been MQM policy to hit out at foreigners in Karachi.

The MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement) says Mr Mirza is a party member, but that charges against him are fabricated and part of a government campaign to remove the MQM from the political scene.

A senior MQM leader said that 500 party activists have been arrested since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif introduced direct governor's rule in Karachi a month ago and many more have escaped detention he said only because they paid bribes to the police.

The authorities insist that they are being even-handed in their efforts to restore peace to Karachi and that they are not targeting any specific group.

More than 600 people have died in violent incidents in the city this year.

The MQM is the biggest political party in Karachi and receives support from Urdu speaking Pakistanis whose families came to the country at the time of partition 50 years ago.

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