HYDERABAD, Pakistan — At least 57 men, women and children were killed Sunday in southern Pakistan's two biggest cities in one of the worst days of bloodshed in years of ethnic violence.
At least 39 people were killed in Hyderabad, officials said, after women and children protesting alleged police excesses defied a curfew and took to the streets. Many of the dead were demonstrators shot by police.
Unofficial reports from hospital doctors and ambulance workers put the death toll at up to 48, but this could not be confirmed. About 350 people have been wounded in two days of violence.
Eighteen people were killed in Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, making it one of the bloodiest days in four years of clashes between Muslim immigrants from India, native Sindhis and settlers from other parts of Pakistan.
Witnesses in Hyderabad said at least 20 women and two children were killed when police opened fire on marchers as gunmen fired at security forces from the flat rooftops of buildings or pelted them with stones.
About 200 women had taken to the streets carrying a child in one arm and holding copies of the Koran, the Islamic holy book, over their heads in a traditional sign of protest.
The violence followed two weeks of increasingly savage clashes between Mohajirs and Sindhis and up to 15 deaths on Saturday.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto told the provincial government of Sind on Friday that she was dissatisfied with its performance and ordered a crackdown to halt disturbances.