Twenty-six people were killed and six wounded when unidentified gunmen opened fire Tuesday on Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims traveling by bus to Iran through southwest Pakistan.
Local officials said the attack took place in the Mastung district of Baluchistan province, about 50 kilometers from the provincial capital Quetta.
The bus driver told reporters there was no security on the bus when at least eight attackers armed with rocket launchers and Kalashnikovs stopped the vehicle and opened fire. He said roughly 40 people were on the bus and some, including him, managed to escape.
Three more people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a vehicle near Quetta as it headed to the site of the first attack.
Pakistan has a history of sectarian violence. The country has a Sunni Muslim majority, and although most Sunnis and Shi’ites coexist peacefully, extremists often target members of each community.
In the country’s northwest, Taliban gunmen attacked a military checkpoint in the Dabori region of Orakzai tribal agency, leaving at least one soldier and 18 militants dead. Military officials said Pakistani helicopter gunships also were involved in the fight.
There was no independent confirmation of the death toll. The area is largely shut off from journalists and aid workers.
Last year, the Pakistani military launched an operation against the Taliban in Orakzai. Pakistan’s semi-autonomous and remote tribal regions near the Afghan border have been the center of militant activity. Domestic and Afghan Taliban elements are located there as well as al-Qaida operatives and other foreign fighters.