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- File Photo

QUETTA: Gunmen shot dead four people from the Shia community on Tuesday, in what appears to be a fresh sectarian attack in Pakistan's troubled southwestern province of Balochistan, police said.

All those killed ran junk and scrap shops in the Kabarhi Market in Quetta, the provincial capital where sectarian and separatist violence is common.

“It was a sectarian attack. Gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on them and drove away,” Asif Ghafoor, a senior police official, told AFP.

The province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is plagued by sectarian violence between the minority Shia and majority Sunni community, as well as by Taliban attacks and a separatist insurgency.

Riasat Ali, another police official confirmed the incident and told AFP that the victims were critically injured and died on their way to hospital.

The victims of the shooting were from the Hazara community, the APP said in its report.

Sectarian violence involving Sunni and Shias, who account for around 20 per cent of the population, has killed thousands of people since the late 1990s.

Despite having large reserves of oil and gas, Balochistan remains one of Pakistan's most impoverished provinces, and bomb blasts and attacks on police and security forces are common.

In 2004 Baloch rebels rose up, demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region's mineral resources. — AFP/APP

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