October 9, 2017 / 8:19 AM / in 11 days

Corrected (official): Five killed in sectarian attack in Pakistan

(Corrects paragraphs 1, 5 after police revise toll to three Hazaras killed, not five)

Shi'ite Muslim men from Pakistan's ethnic Hazara minority mourn around the coffins of their relatives, who were killed in a shooting attack, in Quetta, Pakistan October 9, 2017. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed

By Gul Yousafzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Gunmen killed five men, including three Shia Muslims from the ethnic Hazara minority, in southwest Pakistan on Monday, a police official said, giving details of the second shooting targeting Hazaras in a month.

The attack took place in Quetta, where nearly half a million Hazaras have settled since fleeing Afghanistan to escape the violence in their homeland during the past four decades.

The attackers opened fire from a motorcycle killing the five men who were travelling in the back of a pick-up truck, on their way to sell vegetables at a market, the official said.

“It was a sectarian target killing,” senior police officer Malik Nisar told Reuters, adding that the attackers escaped after opening fire.

“It was unclear initially, but now we know that it was three Hazaras among the five people killed,” he said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Hazaras are frequently targeted by Taliban and Islamic State militants, and other Sunni Muslim militant groups in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A Shi'ite Muslim man from Pakistan's ethnic Hazara minority mourns beside the coffin of his relative, who was killed in a shooting attack, in Quetta, Pakistan October 9, 2017. REUTERS/Naseer Ahmed

More than 20 Hazaras have been killed in similar shootings in Baluchistan in the past two years, police say.

In 2013, three separate bombings killed over 200 people in Hazara neighbourhoods, raising international awareness of the plight of the community.

The ongoing violence in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province has fuelled concern about security for projects in the $57-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a transport and energy link planned to run from western China to Pakistan’s southern deep-water port of Gwadar.

A suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine in the Baluch town of Jhal Magsi on Thursday killed 22 people and wounded more than 30 others.

The bombing was claimed by Islamic State and is the latest sectarian attack in the restive province.

Taliban and other Sunni Islamist militants are active in the province, while ethnic Baluch separatists have run a low level insurgency for decades, mounting attacks on security forces and other targets linked to the central government.

Elsewhere in Pakistan on Monday, an official said gunmen killed three soldiers and wounded eight in an attack on their vehicle in the semi-autonomous tribal region of North Waziristan.

North Waziristan was a Taliban stronghold until 2014, when Pakistan’s military launched a major offensive against the group and pushed many of its fighters across the border into Afghanistan.

Following Monday’s attack, security forces closed off roads in Razmak district, and surrounding villages.

Additional reporting by Haji Mujtaba; Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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