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Protesters Turn Violent in Pakistan

October 4, 2003

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ Hundreds of Shiite Muslim protesters threw bricks at fast food restaurants, burned cars and damaged two gas stations Saturday in southern Pakistan before the funeral for a member of the minority group killed in a bus attack.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd of about 600 who also set fire to a police checkpoint and an oil tanker in the port city of Karachi.

No injuries were reported and no arrests were made.

Authorities said they ``exercised maximum restraint″ and used force only when the mob started causing damage to public and private property, breaking windows of dozens of shops.

The crowd threw bricks and stones at a KFC and a McDonald’s, but the fast food restaurants were not damaged because of increased police security, said Tariq Jamil, Karachi’s police chief.

``The people were angry and emotional,″ said Mohammed Boota, a police deputy superintendent. ``We tried our best to handle them politely, but they did not cooperate with us.″

The violence erupted a day after two youths on a motorcycle opened fire on a bus carrying Shiite Muslims, killing six and wounding several others. No one has claimed responsibility.

Police said Saturday that three special teams have been formed to track down the attackers.

The bus belonged to Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission, or SUPARCO, which is charged with developing satellite technology. All the victims were Shiites working for the agency.

The bodies of five victims were sent to other parts of the country. The sixth was to be buried Saturday in Karachi _ Pakistan’s largest city _ which has seen several terrorist attacks in recent months.

Authorities believe two Sunni Muslim extremist groups, Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, have been responsible for killing hundreds of minority Shiite Muslims in recent years. Top leaders of the groups have been arrested or killed in shootouts with police.

The split between the two sects dates back to a 7th-century dispute over who was the rightful successor to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Most of Pakistan’s Shiite and Sunni Muslims live peacefully together, but extremist groups on both sides have staged attacks.

Sunni Muslim suicide attackers raided a Shiite mosque in the southwestern city of Quetta in July, killing some 50 worshippers and wounding about 100 others.

Update hourly