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Gunmen open fire on bus in Pakistan, 18 die

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Gunmen opened fire on a passenger bus in the northern Pakistani district of Kohistan in an apparent sectarian attack on Tuesday, killing 18 people, police officials said.

"All the people on board were Shiites, and at the moment it looks like they were targeted by armed men from the local Sunni community,'' a senior police official told Reuters.

The bus was traveling from central Pakistan city of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, to the northern town of Gilgit.

Police officials said the bus came under attack in an area inhabited by two Sunni tribes about 102 miles north of Islamabad.

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Sunni extremists allied to or inspired by al-Qaida and the Taliban routinely attack government and security force targets, as well as religious minorities and other Muslim sects they consider infidels. Most of the violence has been in the northwest, close to Afghanistan.

The majority of Pakistanis are Sunni Muslims, with Shiites accounting for around 15 percent of a population of around 180 million.

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More than a decade after the beginning of the war, Afghanistan faces external pressure to reform as well as ongoing internal conflicts.

Both communities largely live in peace with each other but militants from the two sides have killed thousands of people in tit-for-tat attacks since the beginning of Islamist militancy in the country in the 1980s.

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Many thousands have been killed in the last five years, and attacks on Shiites — targeted purely because of their sect — have been some of the bloodiest.Shiite Muslims are a minority sect of Islam, arising from a dispute over the successor to the Prophet Mohammad 1,400 years ago. Many extreme Sunni Muslims consider them apostates.

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Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.