Islamabad: Seven Shia Muslims were shot dead on Saturday in two separate sectarian attacks by unidentified gunmen in Quetta city of southwest Pakistan, triggering violent protests from the community which left two more people dead.
In the first attack on Shias, the gunmen ambushed a vehicle with five persons in Hazar Ganji area of Quetta and fired indiscriminately at the car. All five persons were killed instantly; police and witnesses told the media.
The gunmen, who were riding a motorcycle, escaped after the shooting.
City Police chief Mir Zubair said the five men killed in the incident were vegetable merchants.
All the dead were Shia Hazaras, witnesses said.
In the second attack a short while later, two more persons were gunned down in Hazar Ganji area, police said. The victims, who according to witnesses were also Shia Muslims, were sitting at a hotel when they were attacked.
Their bodies were taken to nearby hospitals.
Policemen surrounded the area and carried out a search though no arrests were made.
No group claimed responsibility for the incidents.
Later in the day, angry members of the Hazara community protested in some parts of the city and resorted to aerial firing in which another two people were killed, Dunya News reported.
The Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) condemned the attacks
on Shias, and members of the Hazara community blocked the Brewery Road and the Western Bypass to protest the two incidents.
The HDP said that these kinds of incidents were leading the province towards anarchy and demanded that those involved in the incidents should be arrested.
The Balochistan Shia Conference called for three days of mourning in the province and demanded the arrest of the people involved in the brutal killings.
Sardar Saadat Hazara, a leader of the community, demanded that the Governor`s Rule be imposed in Balochistan in view of the deteriorating law and order situation.
He called for a strike in Quetta tomorrow to protest the killings.
On Thursday, a Shia judge was gunned down along with his driver and police bodyguard in Quetta.
The attack was blamed on the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Balochistan has been a flashpoint for sectarian violence against Shias.
Quetta has particularly been badly hit by a wave of sectarian killings in which mostly Shias belonging to the Hazara community have been targeted brutally.