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39 Killed in Escalating Karachi Violence

Family members carry the casket of Waja Ahmad Karim Dad, 60, who was killed during a shootout by unidentified men a day earlier, for his burial in Karachi August 18, 2011.

Pakistani authorities say at least 39 people have died in two days of political and gang-related warfare in Karachi, continuing a disturbing trend of escalating violence in the southern port city.

Police chief Saud Mirza said 17 people were killed Wednesday and 22 others on Thursday. One of the victims was former lawmaker Waja Kareem Dad from the ruling Pakistan People's Party. Officials also say some of the victims showed signs of torture.

Authorities so far are blaming criminal gangs for starting the latest round in violence, which erupted Wednesday in Karachi's Lyari neighborhood before spreading elsewhere. That section of the city is a PPP stronghold and an area where criminal gangs are known to operate.

Karachi is a crowded city of 18 million people and the country's major economic hub. It has long been wracked by violence between the main political groups in the city, where the Urdu-speaking community and Pashtun migrants have come into conflict. The political parties also are said to have links to armed criminal gangs.

Rights groups say more than 800 people have been killed in Karachi so far this year, with more than 200 dead in July alone.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.