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Pakistani Employee Of Iranian Consulate Shot Dead

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - A gunman shot dead a Pakistani working at Iran's consulate in the city of Peshawar, police said, in an attack likely to compound strains in relations between the Muslim neighbors.

Police declined to speculate on a motive for the killing of consulate public relations officer Abul Hassan Jaffry, which came almost exactly a year after an Iranian diplomat was abducted in the same city. The diplomat is still missing.

"As he came out of the narrow street where his house is, an attacker on foot was waiting and opened fire and then ran away," Peshawar's police chief Liaqat Ali Khan told Reuters.

Hassan died on his way to the hospital.

"No one saw the attacker. We've just got shell casings from a pistol from the spot," Khan said.

Ties between mostly Sunni Muslim Pakistan and majority Shi'ite Muslim Iran were strained last month by a suicide bomb attack in southeastern Iran which killed 42 people.

A Sunni Muslim rebel group, Jundallah (God's Soldiers), claimed responsibility for the attack in which 15 Iranian Revolutionary Guards, including six senior commanders, were killed along with 27 other people.

Iran says the militants operate from the Pakistani side of the border and has demanded Pakistan hand over their leader, Abdolmalek Rigi.

Pakistan has condemned the bombing and vowed to help Iran track down those responsible, but says Rigi is in Afghanistan.

Iran's consul general in Peshawar, Abbas Ali Abdolahi, said Jaffry's killing was a plot by the common enemies of Iran and Pakistan.

"It aims to strain the relationship of the two countries," Abdolahi was quoted as saying by Iranian state broadcaster IRIB on its website.

Abdolahi said Jaffry was shot by two motorcycle riders.

On November 13, 2008, gunmen kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in Peshawar after killing one of his Pakistani guards.

Peshawar is the capital of North West Frontier Province, which borders Taliban strongholds in lawless lands along the Afghan border.