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Pakistan Suspends Mobile Services in Karachi, Quetta on Threats

Pakistan suspended mobile phone services in Karachi and Quetta because of security threats relating to the start of the Muslim holy month of Muharram, after a wave of sectarian killings since last month.

The suspension was ordered between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time, Amir Pasha, a spokesman for Pakistan Telecommunications Co.’s mobile unit, said by telephone from Islamabad. Motorcyclists were barred in Quetta while the High Court of Sindh reversed a government order for them to stay off the roads in Karachi.

The restrictions come after 500 people were killed in Karachi in mostly sectarian attacks since September, according to police. Thousands of people have been killed in violence between majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslims in Pakistan since the 1980s. Shiite Muslims account for about 20 percent of Pakistan’s population of 190 million.

At least 43 people were killed and 50 wounded in a 2009 bombing in Karachi during a procession of Shiite Muslims to mark Ashura, the ninth and tenth days of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.

Mobile phone services were last suspended in parts of the country in October because of security threats. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said terrorists often use motorcycles to launch attacks and mobile phones to trigger explosive devices.

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