VIOLENCE: Police arrest suspects in cleric attack that sparked Karachi clashes

Pakistani police officers carry coffins with the bodies of their colleagues killed by unknown gunmen, during their funeral procession in Karachi, Pakistan, on Dec. 26, 2012. Police said gunmen wounded a prominent Sunni cleric and killed his guards and his driver in an apparently sectarian attack. Photo: Fareed Khan/AP Photo

BLOOMBERG NEWS

KARACHI — Pakistan said it arrested several suspects involved in Tuesday’s murder attempt on a political leader in Karachi, an attack that sparked sectarian violence and killed

16 people in the nation’s commercial capital.

“I cannot disclose the number but we have made several arrests,” a government spokesperson said. He confirmed the death toll in Tuesday’s violence, adding the situation “is under control.”

Aurangzaib Farooqi, leader of the hardline Sunni Muslim organization Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, survived an attack by gunmen, prompting his party to demand a day of mourning, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Farooqi received a bullet wound to the thigh, while five of his guards and chauffeur were killed in the shootout.

People with bamboo shafts and some with pistols took to the streets after television channels reported the news of the attack. Armed men fanned across the city during which 10 people were killed, either in reaction or related to the attack, the newspaper said.

Businesses remained closed Wednesday in Karachi after Farooqi’s party called for the day of mourning. Trade unions said they will refrain from opening shops, while transportation representatives said they will keep off roads after two of their vehicles were set on fire by protesters.

Religious and ethnic clashes have claimed over 8,000 lives in Karachi since 2008, Geo television reported last week.

The city, the largest in Pakistan with about 20 million residents, is home to Urdu-speaking migrants who settled there after the 1947 partition from India, and ethnic Pashtuns fleeing army operations against militants in the country’s north.

President Asif Ali Zardari is in the city to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in a gun and bomb attack on Dec. 27, 2007.

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