At least 16 people were killed and over 50 others injured in sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan region of northern Pakistan on Tuesday,prompting authorities to call in the army and impose curfew Wednesday. The situation remained tense as Interior Minister Rehman Malik ordered mobile phone services to be jammed in the region.
Five people were killed and dozens injured in a grenade attack and incidents of firing between rival Shia and Sunni groups in Gilgit city,the capital of the region,on Tuesday,the police. As the violence spread,a mob stopped several buses on the Karakoram Highway near the Sunni-dominated Chilas area,pulled out nine Shias and gunned them down,police said. Two jumped into a river and drowned. Two policemen were also injured in the attack.
The Express Tribune reported that violence erupted during a strike called by the Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ),a radical Sunni group,to press for the release of some of its supporters. The ASWJ activists had been arrested for an attack on a procession by a rival group last month. ASWJ is considered a front for the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba.
ASWJ supporters began burning tyres on roads and reportedly forced traders to shut their shops leading to clashes. The local police was unable to control the violence and the army was called. State-run Radio Pakistan reported that the army had taken control of Gilgit city and incidents of firing had stopped.
Bullet proof army vehicles and other security forces were patrolling the deserted roads of Gilgit on Wednesday.