A passenger bus was carrying 51 Shiite pilgrims from Iran to Pakistan’s western Balochistan province when it was hit by a bomb on Tuesday, January 21. Authorities confirmed 22 deaths in the attack, which took place in the Mastung district near the Pakistani-Iranian Taftan border.
Two people were killed in a previous attack in early January when a bomb targeted a bus carrying Shiite pilgrims near Quetta, the capital city of the Balochistan province.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the Tuesday bombing, but in the past militant groups belonging to the majority Sunni sect have carried out similar attacks.
Lately, Pakistan’s militant Sunni extremists with links to al Qaeda have intensified their attacks on minority Shiites, whom they do not recognize as Muslims.
In August, 2013, the al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group massacred at least 50 Shiites in a string of terrorist attacks. The attacks were perpetrated on the mosque of ethnic Hazara Shiites in Quetta. 2012 was also a deadly year for Pakistan’s Shiites. Human rights groups say that more than 300 of them were killed then.
Pakistani experts say that although the lives of Shiite Muslims are under threat all over Pakistan, those living in Balochistan and the northwestern Gilgit-Baltistan region face a systematic onslaught by the Taliban and other militant groups. Some experts have gone so far as to call it a “genocide.”