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Pakistan Mine Kills 14 Shiites

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ISLAMABAD -- A van carrying minority Shiite Muslims hit an anti-tank land mine in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing 14 passengers in what police described as the country's latest sectarian attack.

Eight members of one family, including three women and three children, were among those killed in the blast on the outskirts of Kohat city, said police official Naeem Khan. The group was traveling from Spai, a predominantly Shiite village in the Orakzai tribal area.

"It was a terrorist act. It apparently seems to be a sectarian incident," Khan said, adding that it was unclear who had buried the mine that hit the minibus.

Sunni militants in the region, including the Pakistani Taliban, have carried out attacks against Shiites in Orakzai and the neighboring Kurram tribal area. They have used anti-tank land mines in past attacks, said Khan.

Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim country, and most Sunnis and Shiites live peacefully together. But the country has a long history of sectarian attacks by extremists on both sides of the divide.

Attacks by Sunni militants on Shiites have also been on the rise over the last year in southwestern Baluchistan province.

The Sunni-Shiite schism over the true heir to Islam's Prophet Muhammad dates back to the seventh century.

Also Wednesday, a group of Taliban fighters snuck across the border from Afghanistan into the northern area of Chitral and attacked a Pakistani military post, two Pakistani security officials said. At least six insurgents died in the shootout, they said.

The officials denied Taliban claims of killing 15 Pakistani troops, saying the government forces did not suffer any casualties.

Such conflicting claims are common in such border incidents. They usually occur in remote areas, making independent confirmation difficult.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

U.S. and Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of not doing enough to stop Pakistani militants from crossing the Afghan border to target NATO and U.S. forces.

But Pakistan complains the Afghan authorities are not taking steps to stop militants from sneaking into Pakistan from Afghanistan to attack Pakistani security forces.

The latest attack comes ahead of the Pakistani prime minister's visit to Kabul. The Thursday trip is the first by Raja Pervaiz Ashraf since assuming office in June.


Associated Press writer Hussain Afzal in Parachinar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

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