At least eight people belonging to the minority Shia Hazara community were killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire on a bus in the Pakistani city of Quetta, in the country's Baluchistan province. Six others were injured in the incident, which occurred on Thursday morning, according to local media reports.
“At least nine Hazara Shiites were sitting in a minibus… when two gunmen opened fire on them with automatic weapons, killing eight of them,” Imran Qureshi, a local police officer told Dawn, a Pakistani daily. “Six passengers died on the spot, while two others expired as they were being rushed to hospital.”
He added that the gunmen, who have so far not been identified, had managed to escape after the killings.
The Hazaras, who mainly reside in central Afghanistan, are an ethnic and religious minority in Pakistan. As a result, they have been frequently targeted by a number of Sunni extremist groups, including the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi -- an al Qaeda-linked Pakistani militant group.
Thursday’s shooting is the latest in a series of attacks targeting the Hazara community. In June, at least 24 Hazaras were killed when the bus they were traveling on was targeted by suicide bombers.
“In the last decade, at least 2,000 of our people have been killed, and yet the killers remain unpunished,” Abdul Khaliq Hazara, a Quetta-based leader of the Hazara Democratic Party -- a Pakistani political party -- told The New York Times. “It seems the killers have been given a free hand.”
According to a recent report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, more than 200,000 people, most of them belonging to the Hazara and Hindu communities, have fled Baluchistan in the last 10 years to escape persecution by Sunni militant groups.