Pakistan calls troops after violence kills 10, injures dozens

Pakistan called in its army Saturday to quell sectarian unrest in three cities, after nine people were killed and nearly 90 wounded in violent attacks across the country, according to officials.

Authorities imposed a curfew in the city of Rawalpindi, where sectarian clashes on Friday left nine people dead and more than 60 injured, and spawned retaliatory violence in at least two other cities.

Fighting erupted in the garrison-city, which neighbours the capital Islamabad, when a procession by Shiite Muslims to mark the most important day of the mourning month of Muharram coincided with a sermon at a nearby Sunni mosque.

"A curfew has been imposed in Rawalpindi city to avert further violence following the incidents on Friday," Waseem Ahmed, a police official told AFP.

"The curfew will remain until midnight on Saturday. The whole city has been closed down," he said.

Deeba Shehnaz, a spokeswoman for rescue services, told AFP: "According to the latest figures, we can now confirm the death of nine people from the sectarian violence on Friday. At least 68 others were wounded during the clashes."

Angry Shiite protesters attacked the Sunni mosque and seminary, torching its building and an adjacent cloth market, where workers on Saturday were still battling to extinguish the fire completely.

Rival groups then attacked each other, TV cameramen and security forces and also fired gunshots.

The authorities deployed large numbers of troops in the city and later imposed a full curfew as soldiers patrolled the streets to stop protesters coming in from other cities.

Violence also erupted in the southern city of Multan and Chishtian town, where civil authorities called in troops to maintain law and order.

A senior police official in Multan told AFP that at least 12 people were injured when Sunnis took to the streets to protest the Rawalpindi incident, leading to clashes with Shiites who fired warning shots in the air.

In neighbouring Chishtian, a Shiite mosque was partially damaged and several shops were destroyed when Sunnis torched it in retaliation for the violence in Rawalpindi.

All entry points into Rawalpindi were blocked, resulting in traffic chaos on Saturday morning that choked parts of the highways leading to Islamabad.

Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, of which Rawalpindi is a major city, told an official meeting following the clashes that the government ensure the culprits for the clash are brought to justice.

"We condemn the act of violence in Rawalpindi and sympathise with the aggrieved families. We will take the culprits to the task," he said in his statement.

But one local legislator, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who is a member of the lower house of the parliament from the area said that violence there was the result of local administration's failure.

"I declare the local administration responsible for Friday's violent acts. They failed to control the situation," Ahmed told a news conference.

Pakistan is rife with sectarian clashes, with Sunni militant groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban often attacking gatherings by Shiites, who constitute some 20 percent of the country's overwhelmingly Muslim population.

Pakistan had deployed heavy security all across the country for 10th of Muharram on Friday -- which is the death anniversary of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed -- to avert any terrorist attack on the mourning processions of Shiites.

Authorities had jammed mobile phone services as part of the security measures on the day, which hampered communication following the clashes. Cell phones in Rawalpindi are expected to remain unconnected for the weekend.

The Islamic month of Muharram lasts until December 5 this year and is a particularly fraught time.

Hussein was killed by the armies of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD and his death in Karbala in Iraq is mourned across the world by Shiites every year.

Elsewhere, in an attack unrelated to the sectarian clashes, a security official was killed and nine others wounded when Islamic militants targeted security convoys in the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded near a roadside in the northwestern district of Dera Ismail Khan, killing one security official and wounding four others.

In another attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a security forces' convoy and injured five soldiers in Bannu district, which is connected to the semi-autonomous tribal areas on Afghanistan border, branded by Washington as hub of Al-Qaeda and Taliban led militants.

  • Ford plants a new Mustang on the Empire State Building in style 44 minutes ago
    Ford plants a new Mustang on the Empire State Building in style

    Fifty years ago this week, Ford made history by staging the greatest car launch in history — building up the drama around its new Mustang with stunts like papering over dealership windows and landing on the covers of both Time and Newsweek magazine. To celebrate its anniversary, Ford re-created a stunt it last pulled off in 1965 — landing a new Mustang on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.

  • All-new 2015 Toyota Camry becomes an edgier appliance 1 hour 15 minutes ago
    All-new 2015 Toyota Camry becomes an edgier appliance

    Toyota finds itself in a tricky situation. Those that enjoy cars as more than a simple means of transportation think of the Camry as a bland spongecake gone stale. And yet it's been the best-selling vehicle in the entire industry for the past 12 years, with a car rolling off the production line every 65 seconds. So how do you add flavor to your insipid dish without alienating your loyal -- and vast -- customer base? Enter the 2015 Camry: Toyota's attempt to engage enthusiasts while appeasing to those that think a turbo is nothing but make-believe snail.

  • New Hyundai Sonata grows into a large contender 1 hour 18 minutes ago
    New Hyundai Sonata grows into a large contender

    So it’s taken a while, but Hyundai is in the big leagues now. There is rife evidence of this in its sales numbers, reliability ratings and white paper indices, but the most telling indicator to us, perhaps, is that Hyundai no longer feels the need to overdesign or mimic other automobile designs as if to say, “Look, we can build good cars, too! They look just like these other nice ones!”

  • Supermodel Qi Qi is afraid of flying
    Supermodel Qi Qi is afraid of flying

    The supermodel said that she will take her daughter in a vacation but will try to avoid boarding a plane

  • One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks
    One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks

    South Korea's coastguard said Wednesday one person had been killed as it struggled to rescue 476 people -- mostly high school students -- aboard a ferry that ran aground and sank off the southern coast. "The ferry is almost completely submerged," Lee said, adding that a detachment of South Korean Navy SEALS were taking part in the rescue. Of the 450 passengers on board the ferry bound for the southern resort island of Jeju, 325 were students from a high school in Ansan, south of Seoul. The 6,825-tonne ferry, which had sailed out of the western port of Incheon on Tuesday evening, ran into trouble some 20 kilometres (13 miles) off the island of Byungpoong.

  • ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says
    ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — The “huge” statues at a Hindu temple in Batu Caves and Buddhist temple in Penang are an affront to Islam as the religion forbids idolatry, a retired Court of Appeals judge...