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In Thursday’s sectarian attack, gunmen forced 20 Shiites off three buses in the Naran Valley in northern Pakistan, shot and killed them, said a police official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was worried about retribution.
The victims were traveling from Rawalpindi to Gilgit, a mostly Shiite area, according to Gilgit’s deputy police inspector general, Ali Sher.
Later, two gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killed three Shiites in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province in southwest Pakistan, said police officer Shaukat Ali.
There have been several such sectarian attacks in the past by Sunni extremists who do not view Shiites as true Muslims. In February gunmen killed 16 Shiites in the city of Manshera. In April, violence between Sunnis and Shiites killed 14 people in and around Gilgit.
The attacks rarely elicit a strong response from the government of this Sunni-dominated country, and the military almost never launches military operations in response.
"The army has definitely not made it a cause that they have to defend the Shiites," said Khalid Ahmed, a Pakistani scholar whose book "Sectarian War" investigates the country’s Sunni-Shiite divide.
The political parties rarely take up the cause because some of the Sunni groups have significant mainstream support, he said.
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