JNN 25 Mar 2011 Parachanar : Gunmen attacked a minibus carrying mostly Shiite Muslims and killed eight people on Friday in a stretch of northwestern Pakistan that has seen a recent peace deal between rival Sunni and Shiite tribes, a government official said.
The gunmen who carried out the ambush in the Bagan area of the Kurram tribal region also kidnapped 18 people from the bus, said Javid Khan, a local administrator. The attack was the latest blow to the peace deal, which was meant to end a four-year conflict that cost hundreds of lives, but has failed to extinguish violence in the area.
Local administration official Fazal Hussain told AFP the Shias in a three-vehicle caravan were heading from the northwestern city of Parachinar to Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
“The attackers came in two vehicles. They opened fire and fled, leaving eight people dead, including a woman and a child,” he said.
The bus was attacked as it was traveling on the main road that runs through Kurram that connects the main town in the region, Parachinar, with Peshawar, the capital of nearby Khyber Pakhtunwkha province, said Khan.
Violence had kept the road closed until the peace deal was struck in February.
Five people were wounded in the attack, said Khan. The bus was mostly carrying people from the Toori tribe, one of the main Shiite tribes that struck the peace deal, he said.
The death toll is expected to rise as some of the injured are in critical condition, medics said.
A similar attack killed nine people in mid-March who were traveling on the road from Parachinar, a Shiite-dominated town.
It is unclear how the Shiite tribes will respond following Friday’s incident and whether the peace deal will be scrapped.
Tribesmen in Kurram have reported that the Haqqani network – a fiercely independent branch of the Afghan Taliban and a major enemy of U.S. and NATO forces – had helped cut the deal with the Shiites so it could use Kurram as a staging ground for fighting in Afghanistan.
The Taliban, who adhere to a hard-line interpretation of Wahabi Islam, have at times exploited sectarian and tribal feuds to spread their influence along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Although Shias are the majority in Kurram, they are surrounded by the Taliban-linked terrorists who have gone so far as to cut off roads over the past few years. The terrorists have also kidnapped and killed those trying to deliver supplies to the Shia areas.
Shia farmers have been forced to sell their agricultural produce in Afghanistan instead of the markets in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province.
Taliban-linked militants in Parachinar, Hangu district and much of the Kurram tribal agency have killed 25 to 30 people on a daily basis over the last six months. Some local media say more than 1,300 Shia community members have been killed in the region since 2007.
They claim that security forces in the tribal regions are ‘under the influence of local Taliban groups’, adding that law enforcement officers have ‘willingly or unwillingly’ launched a clamp down on Shia Muslims.
The killing of Shias is to such extent that has caused international outrage with rights groups and regional countries including Iran expressing concern over the ‘genocide’.
Despite an offensive by the Pakistani government against pro-Taliban militants, they have spread their influence in various regions, killing people and security forces every day.
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