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A man comforts a mourner, following the killing of Shia Muslims, at a hospital in the northwestern district of Mansehra, Aug 16, 2012. — Photo by AFP

GILGIT, Aug 17: A pall of gloom descended on the capital city of Gilgit-Baltistan on Friday over the Mansehra sectarian violence in which 20 people were shot dead.

On Thursday, terrorists ambushed four buses in the Babusar Top area of Mansehra, pulled out passengers and shot dead 20 people from the Shia community.

In major parts of Gilgit city, shops were closed and traffic remained thin.

Ulema in their Jumatul Wida sermons condemned violence and said murderers couldn’t be Muslims as Islam didn’t allow its followers to kill people.

A large number of people poured into streets to protest against the killings before staging a sit-in at Benazir Chowk. GB Legislative Assembly members Didar Ali and Raziuddin Rizvi led the protest.

They criticised the government for failing to protect the people’s life and property, especially those of religious monitories, and said its policies had led to increase in acts of terrorism.

They urged the government to launch forthwith a crackdown on the elements fanning terrorism and sectarianism so that people could lead their lives without fear.

Meanwhile, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat chief Qazi Nisar Ahmad told a congregation at the city’s main mosque that sectarian violence was condemnable and those involved in it didn’t deserve to be called Muslims or even human beings.

He said innocent people were being killed due to the government’s misplaced policies which needed to be corrected to ensure peace.

In Chilas, people held a protest against the Mansehra killings and demanded early arrest of the killers.

Meanwhile, bodies of the attack victims were transported by a helicopter of Army Aviation to Jaglote area instead of their native towns. That led to delay in burial.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf approved the launch of C-130 aircraft service between Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad.

A spokesman for the chief minister said the aircraft would start its flights from Saturday for an indefinite period to help stranded passengers reach home.