ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Pakistani gunmen, in another act of deadly sectarian violence, executed several Shiite Muslim travelers after forcing them off their buses, officials said.
The shootings Thursday in a remote area of northern Pakistan, which The New York Times reported claimed at least 22 lives, came on the same day several Taliban fighters shot their way into an air force base in another part of the country.
In the sectarian attacks, about a dozen gunmen ambushed the buses in Manshera district as they traveled to Rawalpindi. They forced the passengers out and gunned down the Shiites, who are a minority in largely Sunni Muslim Pakistan.
The Times, quoting police officials, reported the attackers, clad in military fatigues, stopped the buses and picked out the Shiites after checking the passengers' identifications and shot them at point-blank range.
The victims, most of them young men, were coming home for the Muslim festival marking the end of the month-long Ramadan observance.
"The gunmen forced the victims to step out of the vans, checked their identity cards, then shot them dead," police official Sher Akbar told CNN.
Manshera is about 100 miles north of Islamabad.
A journalist, familiar with the scene where the shootings occurred, told the Times it is located in a remote and desolate area.
"There is no cellphone coverage, and you see no villages during the four-hour drive on a dirt road," the journalist said.
In February, 18 Shiites were similarly killed after their bus was ambushed not too far from Thursday's attacks.
The attack on the air force base in Kamra in the Punjab province occurred before dawn Thursday. It ended after several hours of fighting in which eight militants and one security officer died.
The Pakistani military was investigating the incident, the Times said. It came amid growing speculation that the Pakistani military may finally open a campaign in North Waziristan tribal area after months of pressure from U.S. officials who say the area is a hideout for the Taliban and al-Qaida to launch attacks on coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
Commenting on the air base attack, Arif Rafiq, an adjunct scholar at Washington's Middle East Institute told the Times, "The Taliban are telling Pakistan's leadership, 'If you hit us here, we'll hit you.'"
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