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Gunmen kill 19 Shiite Muslims in Pakistan bus attack

August 16, 2012 |  6:30 am

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Militants flagged down a bus in northern Pakistan on Thursday and shot to death at least 19 passengers, local authorities said, in an apparent sectarian attack on the country's Shiite minority.

The attack occurred in a predominantly Sunni area in the district of Mansehra, a rugged region north of Islamabad. About 40 gunmen wearing military uniforms ordered passengers off the bus and, after checking their identity cards to ensure they were members of the Shiite, sect, gunned them down execution-style, local officials said.

Sunni extremist organizations in Pakistan have regularly carried out terror attacks on Shiite Muslims, who they regard as heretics. The bus was on its way from the garrison city of Rawalpindi to the far northern region of Gilgit, situated in the foothills of the Karakoram Range and home to a sizable Shiite Muslim community.

The attack mirrored the shooting deaths of 16 Shiite Muslims last February in the remote region of Kohistan, about 110 miles north of Islamabad. In that attack, gunmen ordered passengers out of a convoy of buses, singled out the Shiite Muslims and then shot them to death.

As with Thursday's attack, the convoy of buses was heading from Rawalpindi to Gilgit. The Pakistani Taliban, a Sunni Muslim militant group, claimed responsibility for the February shootings. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack Thursday.

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Pakistan's tribal justice system often a vehicle for revenge

-- Alex Rodriguez and Zulfiqar Ali

Special correspondent Zulfiqar Ali reported from Peshawar, Pakistan.

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