10/07/2004, 00.00
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Escalation in Sunni-Shiite violence (An Overview)

In Pakistan, Sunni Muslims represent 80 per cent of the country's 150 million people; Shiites are around 17 per cent.

Although relations between most people are generally peaceful clashes between extremists from both communities are frequent and have been escalating in the last year.

Some experts have started arguing that the escalating violence might be part of an actual terrorist plan rather than ad hoc inter-communal clashes. Pakistan's is in fact a key US ally in the war on terror.

Here is a list of the main attacks between the two communities:

-         July 4, 2003: Attackers armed with machine guns and grenades storm a Shiite mosque in Quetta, killing 50 worshippers. Two attackers are killed by guards.

-         October 3, 2003: Gunmen fire on a bus carrying Shiite employees of Pakistan's space agency in Karachi, killing six people.

-         October 6, 2003: Sunni lawmaker Maulana Azam Tariq, former chief of banned extremist group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, is shot dead in Islamabad. His group is suspected of involvement in the killings of hundreds of Shiites.

-         March 2, 2004: Sunni militants fire at a Shiite procession in Quetta, killing 44 people and wounding 150.

-         May 7, 2004: A suicide bomb during Friday prayers at a Karachi Shiite mosque kills 23 people and wounds 200, sparking clashes between members of the two communities.

-         May 30, 2004: Pro-Taliban Sunni cleric Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai is shot dead in Karachi.

-         September 10, 2004: Gunmen kill a Shiite professor in Quetta.

-         October 1, 2004: A suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque during Friday prayers in Sialkot kills 31 wounding another 50.

-         October 6, 2004: Two bombs at a radical Sunni gathering in Multan kill at least 39 people injuring 100.

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