Pakistani toxic liquor death toll rises to 41

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KARACHI, Sep 22 (Reuters) A batch of poisonous bootleg liquor has killed 41 people in the Pakistani city of Karachi in one of the country's worst ever cases of alcohol poisoning, police said today Liquor is banned for Muslims in Pakistan, although a few shops are allowed to sell alcohol to non-Muslims. Even those shops are closed during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began last week.

People began falling sick on Thursday and the toll of dead had risen steadily, police said.

''So far, we have reports of 41 deaths, while 27 people are still being treated in different hospitals,'' said Javed Bukhari, a deputy inspector general of city police.

Six people, including a policeman, had been arrested in connection with the sale of the homemade liquor, said city police chief Azhar Farooqi.

Police suspect the poisonous liquor came from one batch that was distributed in poor neighbourhoods.

The dead included Muslims, Christians and Hindus.

Bootleggers traditionally do brisk business during Ramadan, when the few shops that are allowed to sell alcohol to non-Muslims have to close, one police officer said.

REUTERS SKB VC1315

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