Curfew in place in Rawalpindi, Pakistan as violence claims eight lives

Army soldiers stand guard as others block a road during a curfew in Rawalpindi, Nov 16, 2013. — AP

ISLAMABAD: A curfew was in place in the city of Rawalpindi next to the capital after a clash between two groups in relation to the harassment of an Ashura procession in Rawalpindi’s Raja Bazar area killed eight people.

(SOURCE)  Shoaib Bin Aziz, an official with the Punjab government, said Saturday that residents were ordered to stay in their homes until further notice.

Soldiers and police were patrolling the streets to impose the curfew.

“A curfew has been imposed in Rawalpindi city to avert further violence following the incidents on Friday,” Waseem Ahmed, an official at the main police control room, told AFP.

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

Authorities also decided that mobile phone services would remain suspended in the city until Sunday afternoon.

Large numbers of troops were deployed in the city today and soldiers patrolled the streets.

A police armoured vehicle leaves the site following a clash in Rawalpindi on Nov 15, 2013. — Photo by AFP

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

Over 40 people were also reported wounded in the clash on Friday.

Incidents of arson were also reported during the time of the clash in which shops in a cloth market in the city’s Raja Bazar and a seminary were set alight.

Television cameramen and members of the security forces were also caught in the crossfire on Friday between the groups whose members resorted to stone-pelting and also fired gunshots.

The Jaffria Alliance condemned the violence in Rawalpindi and demanded from the provincial government to bring to justice those who had resorted to gunfire.

The violence prompted Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to take notice of the incident and also seek a report from officials.

Hospital officials said that those wounded in the violence on Friday had multiple injuries.

“So far we can confirm the death of eight people from the violence. We received a total of 44 injured people and 13 of them had gunshot wounds,” Qasim Khan, a doctor at Rawalpindi’s district hospital, told AFP.

Rescuers extinguish fire at a burning market after a clash in Rawalpindi on Nov 15, 2013. — Photo by AFP

An official from the rescue department said that the rescue operation was still ongoing and they were yet to fully control the fire.

“The firefighting still goes on. Mobile phone communication has been jammed, so we are unable to quickly update about the relief activities,” Nazim Javed, a rescue worker, told AFP.

The violence appears to have erupted when an Ashura procession coincided with a sermon at a nearby mosque.

“The clash started when a sermon was being delivered from a mosque which was on the procession route,” Ahmed told AFP.

Police officer Afzal Hussain told AP earlier that participants of a procession beat to death three men from a seminary in Rawalpindi for insulting them as their procession passed the religious school.

The procession members dragged the harassers out of the seminary after hearing the shouted insults and beat them to death, Hussain said.

The clash triggered a stampede in the procession which caused more casualties.

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

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

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