Four Shiites shot dead in Pakistan

Gunmen killed four male members of a family belonging to a minority Shiite community in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, police said, in the latest bout of sectarian violence to rock the restive region.

The attack took place late Sunday in the Kuchlak area on the highway between the provincial capital Quetta and the border town of Chaman.

The victims, including a 13-year-old boy, were travelling in a taxi from Afghanistan to Quetta when four gunmen riding motorcycles opened fire on them, local police official Amin Jaffar said late Sunday.

“Two men died on the spot, one on the way to hospital and one passed away in hospital,” he said, adding the gunmen appeared to spare the two women in the vehicle.

“The preliminary investigation shows that it was sectarian-based targeted killings as the family belongs to the Hazara community and was coming from Afghanistan,” said Amjad Ali Khan, a police commissioner from Quetta.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Taliban militants have attacked Shiite Hazaras in the past.

Sectarian violence — in particular by Sunni hardliners against Shiites who make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan’s 200 million people — has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade.

Balochistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has oil and gas resources but is afflicted by Islamist militancy, sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and a separatist insurgency.

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