Pro-Taliban cleric is shot dead in Karachi

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The Independent Online

A senior pro-Taliban cleric was shot dead in Karachi yesterday, provoking riots across the city by thousands of Sunni supporters who ransacked a police station, shops and banks.

Police and protesters exchanged gunfire which injured at least three policemen and four protesters. Crowds shouted slogans against rival Shias, raising fears of sectarian unrest.

The violence started after unidentified gunmen in two cars and a motorcycle attacked Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, a fervent critic of the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was travelling in a pick-up truck to his Islamic seminary in the east of the city. A bodyguard returned fire, wounding one of the six attackers, police said. One of Mr Shamzai's sons, a nephew, his driver and a bodyguard were injured, but none seriously.

Mr Shamzai, who was in his seventies, died of gunshot wounds in hospital. Hewas a strong supporter of Afghan-istan's former Taliban regime and headed the Jamia Islamia Binor Town school where thousandsreceive Islamic education. In late 2001, he headed a failed last-ditch effort to save the Taliban from being attacked by the US for hosting al-Qa'ida.

Last week, two car bombs exploded near the US Consul's Karachi residence and on 7 May a suicide bomb at a Shia mosque in the city killed 22 people. Much of the recent violence is blamed on Islamist militants.