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Shiite couple shot dead in Pakistan: police

A Shiite Muslim couple were shot dead on Saturday while riding a motorbike through a restive town in northwest Pakistan, in what police said was a sectarian murder.

world Updated: Mar 14, 2009 12:33 IST

A Shiite Muslim couple were shot dead on Saturday while riding a motorbike through a restive town in northwest Pakistan, in what police said was a sectarian murder.

Mohammad Sharif, a low-ranking anti-terrorist court official in the town of Dera Ismail Khan, and his wife died when unknown gunmen, also on a motorbike, drove past and sprayed them with bullets, a senior police official said.

"It was a targeted killing," local police official Ehsanullah Khan told AFP.

Khan said the couple lived in a small Shiite community close to Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region of South Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold.

The two gunmen escaped after the shooting, the official said.

Dera Ismail Khan has a history of sectarian violence.

On February 20, a suicide bomber ran into a crowd of mourners at the funeral of a slain local Shiite Muslim leader, killing 30 people, and triggering riots in the town.

Shiites account for some 20 per cent of Pakistan's mostly Sunni Muslim population of 160 million.

Although the two groups usually coexist peacefully, more than 4,000 people have died in outbreaks of sectarian violence since the late 1980s.