Death toll over 20 in Pakistan's sectarian violence
KARACHI, Pakistan -- Gunmen shot dead two Shiite Muslims in an early-morning attack in Pakistan's Punjab province on Saturday, raising the death toll in a two-day wave of sectarian violence to 20, police said.
The shooting coincided with heightened security in Karachi to prevent possible violence after a major Shiite party, Tehrik-e-Jaafria Pakistan called for a strike to protest the killings of nine worshippers at a mosque on Friday.
The reason for the sudden increase in tensions between the Sunni majority and Shiite minority after a six-month period of relative calm was not immediately clear.
Saturday's incident occurred 135 kilometers (85 miles) north of Multan, where two men on a motorcycle attacked the owner of a cotton factory, killing him and a colleague on the spot. The victims were activists of the Shiite Tehrik-e-Jaafria party.
In overnight incidents, four Sunnis were gunned down outside a religious school in central Karachi, while a former Shiite provincial legislator was shot and killed in Bhakkar in Punjab province, police said. The four killed were part of militant Sunni group Sipaha-i-Sahaba Pakistan.
Earlier on Friday, gunmen attacked the clinic of a Shiite doctor in Lahore, killing him, one of his assistants and a patient. The doctor was the vice president of the Pakistan Medical Association in Punjab, and the association has called for a doctors strike in Lahore.
A Tehrik-e-Jaafria leader, Allama Hasan Turabi, on Friday blamed the militant Sunni group Sipaha-i-Sahaba Pakistan for the bloodshed and threatened violent reaction from his party's younger activists if the government failed to arrest the attackers.
The SSP denies any involvement, but police sources said 97 people were arrested in Punjab province on Friday -- mostly members of the militant Sunni group. Officials said Maulana Azam Tariq, a top leader of Sipah-e-Sahaba, was taken into protective custody in Lahore.
NOTE: THE KILLINGS CONTINUE AS WE SPEAK