KARACHI - At least 28 people, including 20 noncombatants of whom 10 were women and four children, were killed and some 50 others wounded in running street battles between rival Liyari groups on Wednesday.
The clashes triggered by the killing of notorious gangster, Shiraz Zikri. Police claimed to have killed Shiraz Zikri, the brother of Ghaffar Zikri, chief of the Arshad aka Papu gang, in a raid with the help of Rangers in Lyari.
The clashes started when gangsters from Uzair Jan Baloch, armed with RPGs and guns, gathered to celebrate the killing of Shiraz Zikri as Zikri had recently joined hands with Noor Muhammad aka Baba Ladla gang against Uzair.
Tension simmered when both the groups started firing and hitting the strongholds of each other. The gangsters fired a number of mini-rockets as a result of which some 50 people sustained wounds and rushed to Civil Hospital where doctors pronounced the death of 10 women, four children and six passersby. The rockets hit the main Lyari Jhatpat Market, houses and schools, but the police and rangers did not dare to enter the troubled area till evening.
Sources said the gangsters confined the police personnel to the police stations as two cops were also wounded when the gang war escalated and the gangsters started targeting the police stations.
It is worth mentioning here that clashes have been continuing between the rival gangs for six months, killing hundreds of people. The gangsters captured the check posts established by law enforces to control the law and order situation.
The sources pointed out that Shiraz Zikri was killed by the rival gang of Uzair, but the law enforces claimed to have killed him in an encounter. South DIG Abdul Khaliq Sheikh, while talking to The Nation, said the incident occurred in reaction to the killing of Shiraz Zikri in a joint operation conducted by rangers and police. He claimed the law enforcers took action to stop the clash and killed two attackers in Jhatpat Market area, three in Rangiwara and three more in Gull Muhammad Line.
Answering a question, the DIG said at least 40 people were killed in the current month. “We have managed to evacuate 85% population from Lyari and the remaining 15 percent will be evacuated soon as strength of the gangsters has decreased due to the operation,” he said and asserted the incident of Jhatpat Market was neither a gang war nor was it an attempt to capture the rival group areas, but it was a reaction to the Lyari operation as they targeted innocent people.
On the other hand, the residents of Lyari, on the condition of anonymity, said the law enforcers arrived in the evening when the gangsters had left the areas and exchange of fire had ended. They said that inhabitants of various areas left the areas because of a volatile situation as rangers and police started an operation against innocent residents and picked up several people already affected by the gang war.
They said Uzair Jan Baloch managed to escape to London and the rest of other key gangsters were operating from abroad, but the law enforcers were killing innocent people or minor offenders in fake encounters.
Following the situation, emergency was declared at Civil Hospital, Karachi. “About 12 bodies were brought to the hospital while the others were taken back without postmortem,” said Dr Nisar Ahmed Shah, the MLO of the Civil Hospital. He said 42 injured were also brought to the hospital. “Those killed and injured were victims of explosions. There was not a single person who sustained a bullet injury.” A woman, her daughter, two sisters and their six-year-old female cousin were also among the dead. Various schoolchildren were also killed and injured.
It is worth mentioning that the gang war in Lyari began in 2003 when Rehman Dakait, a closed aide of Haji Lalu, formed a new gang against Lalu. After the arrest of Lalu, his son Arshad Pappu took the command of the gang and started a gang war. Papu was also arrested in 2007 and his successor continued to fight the rival gang of Rehman. As PPP came into power, he gathered all the gangs on the platform of Aman Committee, headed by Rehman. The Aman Committee promoted Uzair Jan Baloch as Rehman was killed in an alleged encounter with the police in 2010. As a result, Zikri left the committee and went into hiding when Baba Ladla took the command of all Lyari gangs. As Zikri left the area, the gangsters joined the Baloch ethnic group.
The coalition of the gangs ended with the gang war in early 2013 when Baba Ladla stood up against the puppet chief of Amman Committee, Uzair Jan. Uzair managed to muster support of various small gangs against Ladla. Followed by the weakened position, Ladla joined hands with Ghaffar Zikri and managed to occupy various areas dominated by Uzair. Interestingly, Uzair Jan who was declared by the Sindh government as the most wanted terrorist, with Rs two million bounty, when he reached London last week after staying in the city during the last six months of the targeted operation in which not a single key player of Lyari gangs has so far been arrested or killed.
The city police chief claimed the operation would continue till the arrest of the last criminal. The police chief could not respond to phone calls made by The Nation to know his stance.