Troops deployed for Karachi funerals
KARACHI — Troops were deployed here in Pakistan’s biggest city Thursday as trouble erupted before funerals for Sunni Muslim leaders who were among 57 persons killed in a suicide blast this week. Angry youths wielding sticks torched at least four buses and one car, police said.
Most gasoline stations and markets were shut, and the government closed educational institutions for three days. “The army has been deployed at sensitive places in the city to assist the civil administration in case of any eventuality,” a military spokesman told Agence France-Presse. “It is a preventive deployment.”
Ten top leaders of the Sunni Tehreek religious party, including its chief Abbas Qadri, were among those killed in the blast Tuesday at Nishtar Park during a ceremony marking the birthday of the prophet Mohammed. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but there were fears it could start a fresh cycle of sectarian violence between militants from Pakistan’s majority Sunni and minority Shi’ite communities.
Tamil Tigers agree to Geneva peace talks
COLOMBO — Tamil Tiger rebels announced Thursday they will attend peace talks in Switzerland, surprising diplomats who had taken a string of lethal attacks in recent days to mean the meeting was off.
Repeated suspected rebel attacks on government forces and ethnic violence claimed more than 40 lives over the past week — the bloodiest since a 2002 cease-fire — sharply raising fears of a return to civil war.
“The Geneva talks will happen,” S. Puleedevan, head of the rebel peace mission, told Reuters news agency by satellite phone from Kilinochchi, the de facto rebel capital. “But the dates will have to be moved by a bit. We will go once we have met our eastern commanders from April 15 to 22.”
Weekly notes …
Police broke up scuffles between rival demonstrations this week in Ulan Bator, Mongolia’s capital, over the government’s award of a major mining contract to a Canadian company. About 1,500 pro-government demonstrators dispersed after confronting 2,000 people who were protesting the award to foreigners in this resource-rich but impoverished country. … A closed court in Uzbekistan sentenced to six-year prison terms two men said to have been extradited by Kazakhstan, despite warnings that such extraditions violate international law. Sharafuddin Latipov and Nozim Rakhmonov were convicted Tuesday in a closed trial of being members of a banned radical Islamic group. Andrea Berg of Human Rights Watch said the two “were among a number of Uzbek nationals arrested late last year in southern Kazakhstan and illegally deported back to Uzbekistan.”
From wire dispatches and staff reports