Up to 18 killed in clashes in Karachi
May 12, 2007 - 3:45:47 PM

Islamabad, May 12 - As many as 18 people were reported killed and scores injured Saturday in running battles between rival groups in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi where the country's suspended chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was due to address supporters.

News reports described the scene as a 'battleground' as workers of the pro-government party Muttahida Qaumi Movement - carrying firearms clashed with activists of the opposition religious party Jamaat-i-Islami, the Geo news channel reported.

Armed groups also clashed outside Karachi airport where Chaudhry was waiting to come out after arriving from Islamabad. At least eight people died and a number of vehicles were set on fire, emergency services told Aaj television.

Television footage showed a pall of smoke drifting across Pakistan's largest city.

Three people were also killed in the city in violence Friday night. Two died when unidentified gunmen riding on a motorcycle opened fire on activists from another opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz Sharif, as they were making arrangements to greet Chaudhry.

In a separate incident, a security guard was shot dead while resisting a group of armed workers of an unidentified party who were trying to force shopkeepers close their businesses.

This was the worst violence linked to the judge's suspension since President Pervez Musharraf removed him on March 9 over charges of abuse of office.

Lawyers and opposition forces have held repeated demonstrations, posing the greatest challenge to Musharraf since he came to power in a coup in 1999.

Despite the gravity of the situation, there was no question of imposing a state of emergency in the country, President Musharraf said in Islamabad.

Up to 400,000 people were expected to take part in a pro-Musharraf rally in the capital later in the day.

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