Islamabad: Gunmen on Monday shot dead two Shiite brothers and a policeman at a passport office in the Pakistani city of Quetta, officials said, the latest sectarian attack to strike the country`s restive southwest.
The brothers, who belonged to the Hazara ethnic group that is predominantly Shiite and easily recognised by their Central Asian features, were entering the city`s passport office along with their parents when the waiting gunmen opened fire.
"The boys, in their twenties, were killed in the shooting while their parents were wounded and a policeman who was passing by the site was also killed after he shot and wounded one attacker," senior police official Abdul Razzaq Cheema said.
He added that two gunmen were involved in the shooting but they had others assist to them in escaping the scene.
Provincial Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani confirmed the shooting and the casualties.
Members of Hazara community protested by placing the bodies of victims, wrapped in shrouds, outside the regional police chief`s office, witnesses said.
No group immediately came forward to claim responsiblity, but several such attacks in the past have been carried out by sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has flourished in recent years despite being outlawed.
Sectarian violence -- in particular by Sunni hardliners against the Shiites that make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan`s 200 million people -- has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade.
Forty-five Shiite Ismailis were massacred in the southern city of Karachi in May in the first attack in the country claimed by the Islamic State group.
The worst atrocities, however, have struck the southwestern province of Baluchistan, home to some 200,000 Shiites, according to local organisations.
The deadliest attack so far, in January 2013, saw a suicide bomber blow himself up in a small snooker hall. About ten minutes later, when rescue workers had rushed to the scene, a truck packed with explosives that had been parked near the hall was detonated. The overall toll was close to 100 dead.