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Shi'a Shot Dead In Pakistan En Route To Iran

A relative of one of the shooting victims is comforted at the local hospital in Quetta.

A relative of one of the shooting victims is comforted at the local hospital in Quetta.

Armed men have gunned down 26 people, all of them belonging to the Shi'a sect, in Pakistan's southern Baluchistan Province, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.

Police say the slain men were traveling by bus on September 20 from Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, to the Iranian border town of Taftan, when their bus was stopped by gunmen in the Mastung district. Shah Nawaz, the assistant police commissioner of Mastung district, told RFE/RL that all those killed were Shi'a.

"The bus was going to Taftan," he said. "The armed men asked the passengers to get out and then opened fire on them. Twenty-six of them were gunned down on the spot. Six more were injured and taken to hospital for treatment."

Bus driver Khushal Khan, who managed to escape the attack, told Radio Mashaal that the attackers came from the opposite direction and stopped the bus at gunpoint.

"The pickup truck came in front of the bus and forced me to stop," he said. "Eight to 10 people stepped down from the truck. All of them were brandishing Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers. They asked the passengers to get out. Some of us managed to escape while the rest were killed."

Hamid Shakeel, the deputy inspector general of police in Baluchistan said that the travelers did not inform the police before making their trip.

"Generally, we provide [Shi'a] with an escort when they travel from Quetta [to Iranian cities]," he told RFE/RL. "Then we hand them over to [guards] for protection. And the same procedure is followed on their return. They will be definitely targeted [in this area] if they travel without protection."

Baluchistan has a population of some 8 million people.

Between 10-20 percent of Pakistanis are Shi'a Muslims and the overwhelming majority Sunni Muslims.