Sixteen Shiite Muslims were killed and four wounded today in an apparent sectarian ambush in a remote tribal town in northwest Pakistan, a paramilitary spokesman and local officials said.
The incident took place in the Sunni dominated Charkhel area on Tal-Parachinar road in the violence-hit Kurram tribal district, close to the Afghan border.
The victims were heading to Peshawar in two passenger vehicles when unidentified attackers ambushed them in a hail of gunfire before fleeing the scene, officials said.
"Sixteen people from the Shiite community have been killed and four were injured in the attack," a senior security official in Peshawar told AFP.
"Today's incident was a result of sectarian violence," he said. Major Fazal-Ur-Rehman, a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps, also confirmed the attack.
Local administrative and intelligence officials said that all of those killed in the attack were Shiite Muslims, adding that the death toll may yet rise.
Security officials said more troops have been deployed to guard the route.
"Forces have reacted to the situation and more troops have been deployed for the route protection," the senior security official based in Peshawar said.
Kurran tribal district has for three years been a flashpoint for violence between Shiite and Sunni communities. Shiites account for some 20 percent of Pakistan's mostly Sunni Muslim population of 160 million.
More than 4,000 people have died in outbreaks of sectarian violence between the groups since the late 1980s.
Elsewhere on Saturday six people were injured when two bomb lasts hit a congested market in Pakistan's cultural capital Lahore, damaging two Internet cafes.
The bombs detonated seconds apart in two different net cafes in the Gari Shahu and Begum Kot neighbourhoods of the city.
Rescue officials said one of the injured was in a critical condition.
Lahore, capital of Punjab province and a city of eight million near Pakistan's border with India, has been increasingly subject to Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked assaults.
Bombs and attacks blamed on Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have killed more than 3,560 people across nuclear-armed Pakistan since government troops besieged a radical mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.
Much of the violence has been concentrated in northwest Pakistan and the border areas with Afghanistan, where around 143,000 US and NATO troops are battling to turn around a nine-year war against Taliban insurgents.
Today, a suicide bomber targeted a military convoy, killing five people in the Swat valley where the army put down a Taliban uprising last year.
On Friday a bomb blast ripped through a busy second-hand car market in a Pakistan's infamous tribal district of Khyber, killing ten civilians including children, officials said.
The explosion rocked Kuki Khel town in Khyber, on the NATO supply route into Afghanistan and part of Pakistan's tribal belt that Washington considers an Al-Qaeda headquarters and the most dangerous region on Earth.