Gunmen execute 22 in Pakistan bus attack

ISLAMABAD Thu Aug 16, 2012 1:15pm EDT

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Gunmen in north-west Pakistan ambushed three buses, forced passengers out and shot 22 of them dead in a sectarian attack at dawn on Thursday, officials said.

The officials said about 15 armed men wearing army uniforms checked the identification cards of the passengers and then opened fire after learning they were Shi'ites.

"It is confirmed at least 22 people are dead," said a senior police official.

The Darra Adam Khel faction of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistan Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack.

"We have targeted them (Shi'ites) because they are enemies of Sunnis and conspire against us. We will continue such attacks in the future," Mohammed Afridi, a spokesman for the faction, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

The director of police in the north-western city of Gilgit, Ali Sher, said the buses were stopped in the Lulusar area, which lies below mountains.

Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim country and attacks targeting Shi'ites have increased this year in the area around Gilgit. In February, gunmen killed 18 Shi'ite bus passengers in the district of Kohistan.

Eight militants and one soldier were killed on Thursday when Islamist fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fought their way into one of Pakistan's largest air bases, the air force said.

The attack on the Minhas air base at Kamra, central Punjab province, was repelled and only one aircraft was damaged, an air force spokesman said. The TTP claimed responsibility for the assault.

(Reporting by Jibran Ahmad in PESHAWAR and Sheree Sardar in ISLAMABAD; Additional reporting by Saud Mehsud in DERA ISMAIL KHAN; Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Pravin Char)

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