PESHAWAR, Pakistan, (Reuters) – Gunmen killed three Shi’ite Muslims in a drive-by shooting in Pakistan’s northwest on Saturday in what appeared to be a sectarian attack, officials said.
The assailants, riding on a motorbike, opened fire on Mazhar Zaidi and two of his friends in the town of Dera Ismail Khan as they sat in a shop, killing all the three on the spot. “All the three victims are Shi’ites,” Abdul Ghafoor, head of the police station in the area, told Reuters. He said they had lodged a complaint against activists of a banned Sunni Muslim militant group, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, and were conducting raids to arrest them.
The majority of Pakistanis are Sunni Muslims, with Shi’ites accounting for around 15 percent of the 160 million population.
Both communities largely live in peace with each other but militants from the two sides have killed thousands of people in tit-for-tat attacks since the beginning of Islamist militancy in the country in the 1980s.
The latest killings came amid a resurgence of violence in the northwest after the collapse of peace talks with a key Taliban commander in the tribal areas along the Afghan border.