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Dozens killed in Pakistan over two days

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Suspected gang members killed 39 people in two days in Pakistan's largest city, with many of the victims tortured, shot and stuffed in sacks that were dumped on the streets, officials said yesterday.

The gangs are allegedly affiliated with the city's main political parties and have been blamed for a surge in killings in recent months. The government has been unable to stop the violence, as it also grapples with a faltering economy and a raging Islamist insurgency.

The unrest illustrates the precarious state of Pakistan's stability at a time when the United States wants the nuclear-armed country to step up its fight against Taliban militants who stage cross-border attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Seventeen people were killed in Karachi Wednesday and another 22 yesterday, said police chief Saud Mirza. Many of the victims were tortured, shot in the head and stuffed in burlap sacks, he said.

A resident in one of the neighborhoods that has experienced much of the violence said people were afraid to leave their homes. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being targeted.

The latest round of violence seemed to be driven by a mix of political and criminal motivations, said Sharfuddin Memon, the security adviser to the government in Sindh province, where Karachi is the capital. -- AP

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