11 killed in Gilgit violence

Published January 9, 2005

GILGIT, Jan 8: Eleven people were killed, including six members of a family, after riots broke out in Gilgit on Saturday following an armed attack on a Shia leader, officials said. A curfew was imposed in the town after the unrest.

Armed men opened fire on Agha Ziauddin, the leader of Millat-i-Islamia, when he was travelling in his car to a mosque. He was wounded, but his two guards were killed, Gilgit Deputy Commissioner Sajid Baloch said.

One of the attackers was killed when Mr Ziauddin's guards returned fire, Northern Areas Home Secretary Jamil Ahmed said. "He is not from Gilgit. We are trying to establish his identity," he added.

Mr Ziauddin's supporters took to the streets after the ambush, going on a shooting and burning spree that forced the government to deploy troops and enforce a curfew in the city with orders to shoot on sight anyone caught outside.

The mob set fire to several government offices and private buildings.

It also torched the house of forest officer Taighun Nabi, burning him and five members of his family to death, Mr Baloch said.

Elsewhere during the rampage, local health department chief Dr Sher Wali was trapped in his office and fatally shot by the mob, his cousin Badar Munir said.

Another man was killed as the mob shot randomly in the streets, said the home secretary.

"The administration is making announcements on loud speakers advising people to stay indoors," said Ghulfam Ahmed, a resident, as tensions ran high in the city.

"People are very terrified," a resident told Reuters by telephone.

Interior ministry officials in Islamabad said they were trying to airlift Mr Ziauddin to the capital for emergency treatment.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack on Mr Ziauddin.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the incident was an act of the enemies of Pakistan who wanted to create instability.

Talking to PTV, he said unknown persons tried to assassinate Agha Ziauddin which created law and order situation and the army was called in.

"I think killing someone or destroying private property has nothing to do with Islam. Those responsible for all this are neither Muslims nor Pakistanis," he said.

He described the incident as regretful and condemned it.

Saturday's violence was the worst in Gilgit since June, when one man was killed in clashes between security forces and people protesting against the school curriculum.

Some 4,000 people have been killed in sectarian violence across the country over a decade.-Agencies

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