Pakistani Taliban take Shiite pilgrims off busses, systematically shoot them all


Pakistani commuters travel on an overloaded passenger bus in Quetta, Pakistan, on Sept. 5, 2011.



The Pakistani Taliban today stopped three busses carrying some 20 Shiite pilgrims and systematically shot the whole group, reported The New York Times, a brutal assault that raises concerns of simmering sectarian violence in Pakistan. 

Local police official Sher Akbar told CNN today the attackers "forced the victims to step out of the vans, checked their identity cards, then shot them dead." The Pakistani Taliban have claimed the killings, said Reuters

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Most of the victims were young men going back home to their villages in order to celebrate the major Muslim feast Eid al-Fitr marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, according to The New York Times

The incident took place in the remote road in the Mensehra region north of Islamabad, a place where local reporter Rina Saeed Khan told NYT had "no cellphone coverage, and you see no villages during the four-hour drive on a dirt road." 

Disguised in military uniforms, NYT said the militants flagged three buses as they were traveling from from Rawalpindi to the tourist hotspot Gilgit, a city CNN said has a large Shiite population.

The city has become a flashpoint for sectarian violence in recent months, according to Agence-France Press.

Local officials told AFP the attack is the third of its kind in the last six months.

The news came hours after a major air force base in Pakistan was attacked by militants