25 Shias pulled off buses, shot dead
* 10 to 12 people wearing army uniform stop buses in the hills of Babusar Top in Mansehra, force some people off and open fire after checking their papers
ISLAMABAD: Terrorists in northwest Pakistan forced passengers to step out of three buses in the Lulusar area and shot dead 25 of them in an apparent sectarian attack on Thursday, officials said.
The officials said as many as 15 terrorists wearing army uniforms checked the identification cards of the passengers and then opened fire after learning they were Shias.
Officials said the buses were ambushed in the hills of Babusar Top, around 160 kilometres north of Islamabad.
"It is confirmed at least 22 people are dead," said a senior police official.
Pakistan is a Sunni majority state, and most Sunnis and Shias live peacefully together. But the country has a long history of sectarian attacks by extremists.
Sunni terrorist groups inspired by al Qaeda often attack religious minorities such as Shias in Pakistan, a strategic US ally facing a Taliban insurgency.
"Ten to 12 people wearing army uniform stopped the bus and forced some people off the bus," said Khalid Omarzai, administration chief in Mansehra.
Local police official Shafiq Gul told AFP that the gunmen were masked, but said the victims were pulled from three separate vehicles in the district.
"They stopped three vehicles, searched them and picked up people in three batches of five, six and nine and shot them dead. They were all Shias," he said.
Sectarian violence linked to Gilgit, a popular tourist destination for wealthy Pakistanis and expatriates who live in the country, has increased in recent months. Angry mobs burnt tyres and blocked roads in some parts of the city to protest against the killings as extra police patrolled deserted streets and markets closed, said an AFP reporter in Gilgit.
GB Chief Minister Mehdi Shah called an emergency meeting of top officials and ordered them to step up security and demanded the immediate arrest of the killers, a spokesman said. agencies