Gunmen kill 11 in Pakistan sectarian attack

QUETTA, Pakistan, July 30, 2011 (AFP) - Ten Shiite Muslims and another man were killed on Saturday when gunmen opened fire in an apparent sectarian attack in southwestern Pakistan, police said.

The shooting took place on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of oil and gas-rich Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran.

"Gunmen opened fire on a passenger van carrying Shiite Muslims. Ten Shiites and a passer-by were killed and four injured in the attack," senior police officer Jamil Ahmad Kakar told AFP by telephone.

Kakar said the unidentified gunmen stood by the roadside spraying bullets at the van before they fled the scene in a waiting car.

"One woman was among the dead while another was injured in the attack," he added.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Baluchistan is rife with sectarian violence between Pakistan's majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslims, as well as Islamist militancy and an insurgency waged by separatists.

On Friday, gunmen killed seven Shiite pilgrims at a bus stop also in Quetta. Police said the victims had been waiting for a coach to travel to neighbouring Iran.

Shiite (Shia) Muslims account for about a fifth of Pakistan's 167-million-strong population, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims.

Local intelligence and administrative officials confirmed Saturday's shootings and casualties.

The attack triggered an angry protest by about 700 Shiite Muslims, some of them armed with sticks and guns, in front of the city's main Bolan Medical Complex, where the dead and injured were taken.

The demonstrators blocked roads and a small group went on the rampage, trying to set fire to a hotel and shops before being dispersed by police wielding batons and firing tear gas.

An AFP reporter in the city said protesters and relatives of the victims fired bullets in the air, threw stones at private vehicles and torched a motorcycle and two cars.

"The situation is now under our control, the dead bodies have been handed over and burial will continue," Hamid Shakeel, a senior city police officer, told AFP.

Thousands of people have died in sectarian attacks in Pakistan since the late 1980s.

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