40 slain in Parachinar sectarian clashes

-File photo

Some 40 people have been killed and more than 70 injured in fierce sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shia Muslims in northern Pakistan, officials said on Saturday.
“So far we have received reports that 40 people have been killed in clashes in two days of fighting between two religious groups in Parachinar,” said Arif Habib, a top official dealing with security in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
Local officials said more than 70 people were also injured in the fighting.
Parachinar, a tribal town close to the Afghan border in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, has a history of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia communities.
The town was placed under curfew on Friday after fighting erupted between the rival groups and troops were deployed to restore order.
Officials said the soldiers had been given shoot-on-sight orders to curb the violence.
Parachinar administration official Sahibzada Anees said army troops backed up by gunship helicopters were patrolling the streets of the town, which has a population of around 70,000.
Officials said 14 deaths occurred when rockets crashed into a house of a resident early Saturday. Among those killed were two women and four children.
Clashes between the two communities over a shrine last year left around 20 people dead.
Anees said trouble erupted after members of the Shia community staged a demonstration on Friday outside their mosque against local Sunnis who allegedly chanted anti-Shia slogans during a religious rally last week.
The bloodshed comes while unrelated battles between tribesmen and al Qaeda foreign militants have been raging in South Waziristan tribal district, some 180 kilometres (112 miles) north-east of Parachinar.
The Waziristan battles have left more than 250 dead, mostly Unzbek and Chechan fighters in the past three weeks.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2006