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Clerics among 10 killed in Karachi violence, say police Roadside bomb claims 2 polio workers in NW Pakistan

KARACHI, Jan 31, (Agencies): A top cleric from one of the largest Muslim seminaries in Pakistan was shot dead Thursday, with at least nine other people killed in bombs and shootings in Karachi in the last 24 hours, officials said.
Abdul Majeed Deenpuri, 60, was a top mufti at the Jamia Banuri Uloom Islamia, a strict Sunni Muslim teaching establishment. He was being driven in a car with a fellow cleric when a gunman opened fire near the eastern neighbourhood Nursery.
“We have got blurred close-circuit camera footage that shows there was a single gunman who was waiting for them,” a senior police official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
“When the car slowed down near a traffic intersection, he opened fire to stop it and then attacked them at close range,” he said.
Fellow cleric Mohammad Saleh, 45, and driver Hassaan Shah, 27, were also killed.
“It was a targeted killing and could have a sectarian dimension,” another Pakistani security official told AFP, referring to violence between Pakistan’s majority Sunni and minority Shiite communities.
Seven others have died in acts of violence in the city since late Wednesday, he said.
Ethnic, sectarian and politically-linked violence in Pakistan’s financial capital killed at least 2,284 people in 2012 in the deadliest such violence for two decades, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
The unrest comes with general elections due by mid-May. The polls will mark the first democratic transition between two civilian governments in Pakistani history.
Seminaries, which provide the poorest families with the only education they can afford, are not tightly regulated in Pakistan and some have served as recruitment grounds for the Taleban and other al-Qaeda-linked terror groups.
Meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed two Pakistani polio workers on their way to vaccinate children in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border on Thursday, an official said.
The two men were on their way to Malikhel village as part of the UN-backed anti-polio campaign when the bomb hit their motorcycle, said government administrator Yousuf Rahim.
The attack — the third this week against polio workers in Pakistan — took place in the Kurram region, a known militant stronghold.
On Tuesday, gunmen riding on a motorcycle shot and killed a policeman protecting a polio team in Gullu Dheri village of Swabi district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The polio workers escaped unharmed in that attack.
In a separate incident in the northwest on Tuesday, a man wounded a polio worker with an axe.
Rahim said it was not immediately clear if the two workers killed Thursday were the actual target of the bombing. Javed Husain, a doctor at a hospital in the town of Parachinar, said the slain men were working as contractors for the government-run anti-polio program in the area.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but suspicion fell on Islamic militants.
Some of the militants oppose the vaccination campaign, accuse health workers of acting as spies for the US and claim the polio vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.
Pakistan is one of only three countries where the crippling disease is endemic. The virus usually infects children living in unsanitary conditions; it attacks the nerves and can kill or paralyze. As many as 56 polio cases were reported in Pakistan during 2012, down from 190 the previous year, according to the United Nations.
Most of the new cases in Pakistan were in the northwest, where the presence of militants makes it difficult to reach children.

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