South Asia

Militants kill 16 in Pakistan convoy ambush

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A suspected sectarian attack on a civilian convoy in a troubled tribal area of Pakistan has left 16 dead.

Several other people were wounded in the ambush in the north west, where the army has carried out operations against Islamist militants.

The convoy, which was being escorted by security forces, was attacked in Char Khel village in the Kurram region.

All those killed were Shia Muslims, according to local officials, who said the death toll may rise.

The convoy was heading from Parachinar, in Kurram, to the main regional city of Peshawar when it was ambushed on Saturday in the predominantly Sunni region.

The Kurram tribal district has been a flashpoint for violence between the minority Shias and the Sunni community for several years.

Some reports put the number of dead at 18, including two women.

Jamshed Tori, who was wounded in the attack, told the Reuters news agency: "Militants attacked the last two vehicles in the convoy with automatic weapons near Char Khel village, killing 18 people."

A tribal leader, Mussrat Bangash, also confirmed the deaths.

Border unrest

Kurram has been hit by scores of attacks, including robberies and kidnappings for ransom, in the past three years.

The army has reportedly killed nearly 100 militants in operations in the region, close to the Afghan border, in recent months.

Several major suicide attacks have hit Pakistan in recent weeks. An attack on Thursday killed at least five people in the Swat Valley, also in north west.

Earlier this month, a pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up in the Mohmand tribal region, killing more than 100 people.

The Pakistani government is under US pressure to crack down on the unrest in the border region.

The Shia minority accounts for some 20% of Pakistan's population of 160 million.

More than 4,000 people have died as a result of sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias since the late 1980s.

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