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Karachi Violence Kills 17 People, Pakistan Army Chief Ready to Intervene

Pakistani police pay tribute to their commrades, killed in an overnight ambush by gunmen during a funeral ceremony in Karachi on August 20, 2011.

Pakistani officials say ongoing violence in Karachi has killed at least 17 people since Saturday, prompting the country's army chief to say the military is ready to restore peace if the government asks for help.

Authorities Sunday said the latest victims of criminal and ethnic violence in the Pakistani commercial capital include two children killed in a gunbattle between drug gangs. They said other victims' bodies were found dumped in the streets with bullet wounds and signs of torture.

Hundreds of people have been killed in Karachi in recent months, in one of the worst waves of violence there in years. Many of the killings are blamed on ethnic gangs linked to rival political factions such as the majority Urdu-speaking Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party of Pashtun migrants.

Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani says a continued deterioration of the situation in Karachi would be a "great injustice" because the city is the "jugular vein of the Pakistani economy," as he put it.

In an interview with the Pakistani newspaper The News published Sunday, Kayani says the army is ready to intervene if Pakistan's civilian government requests such a move. But he also says the government's police and paramilitary forces can deal with the unrest if they are properly deployed.

In other developments, Pakistani militants carried out a series of attacks on government troops in tribal regions bordering Afghanistan Sunday, killing two soldiers and wounding 12 others. Pakistan officials say army forces killed two militants in the fighting.