Pakistan: Gunmen kill 6 in sectarian attack

April 9, 2012 - 12:56 PM

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on Shiite Muslims in southwest Pakistan on Monday, killing six in an apparent sectarian attack, police said.

Three other Shiites were wounded in the attack on a shoe store in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, said police officer Hamid Shakil. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Sunni militants with ideological and operational links to al-Qaida and the Taliban have carried out scores of bombings and shootings against minority Shiites in recent years. The past year has been especially bloody in Baluchistan.

The Sunni-Shiite schism over the true heir to Islam's Prophet Muhammad dates back to the seventh century.

Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim state, with around 15 percent of the population Shiite. Most Sunnis and Shiites live together peacefully in Pakistan, though tensions have existed for decades.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Pakistan became the scene of a proxy war between Shiite-majority Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, with both sides funneling money to sectarian groups that regularly targeted each other.

The level of sectarian violence has declined somewhat since then, but attacks continue. In recent years, Sunni attacks on Shiites have been far more common.