Two killed in sectarian attack in southwestern Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Two people from the ethnic Hazara community were shot dead in a sectarian attack in southwestern Pakistan on Sunday, where targeted killings of minorities have continued despite improvements in overall security.

Three Hazara men were traveling together on the outskirts Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, when two men on a motorcycle opened fire on them, killing two and wounding the third, a police official said.

“It is a sectarian target killing,” senior police officer Syed Attaullah Shah told Reuters.

No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack.

At least six Hazaras have been killed in targeted killings in the past two months in Quetta, the official added.

Hazaras are a mainly Shi’ite Muslim community, and are frequently targeted by Taliban, Islamic State, and other Sunni Muslim militant groups for their religious beliefs in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Many Hazaras fled to Pakistan during decades of conflict in neighboring Afghanistan, and nearly half a million now live in and around Quetta.

In 2013, three separate bombings killed more than 200 people in Hazara neighborhoods, raising international awareness of the plight of the community.

The violence in Baluchistan has fueled concern about security for projects in the $57-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a transport and energy link planned to run from western China to Pakistan’s southern deep-water port of Gwadar.

In December two suicide bombers stormed a packed church in Quetta, killing at least 10 people and wounding up to 56. The attack was claimed by Islamic State.

Writing by Saad Sayeed, Editing by William Maclean