ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A suicide bomber targeted Shi’ite Muslims on two buses being escorted by security forces through a northwestern Pakistan border area rife with sectarian and insurgent violence, killing 12 people yesterday.
Tensions between Pakistan’s majority Sunni Muslims and Shi’ites had made the road unsafe for the minorities traveling to the nearby Kurram tribal region. Police recently had declared it safe, but Shi’ites are provided security to travel through it.
Yesterday’s attack targeted only the buses carrying Shi’ites, police official Akram Ullah said. Security forces escorting them weren’t harmed.
The victims were passing through the town of Hangu when the lone attacker on foot set off the bomb, Ullah said.
Five people were killed at the scene and seven others died at hospitals, he said.
Extremist Sunnis and Shi’ites have targeted each other’s leaders in violence that dates from well before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Several of Pakistan’s Sunni extremist groups also are allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who view Shi’ites as infidels.
Also yesterday, Pakistan Army helicopters destroyed a hide-out of a key Al Qaeda-linked militant leader, Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, killing 25 insurgents.
However, it was unclear whether Mohammed was present at the time, according to an army and intelligence official.