Funerals Held in SW Pakistan for 26 Victims of Sectarian Violence

Posted September 21st, 2011 at 7:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Hundreds of mourners gathered in the southwestern city of Quetta Wednesday for the funerals of 26 Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims killed by unidentified gunmen.

The pilgrims were traveling by bus to Iran Tuesday when at least eight attackers stopped the vehicle in the Mastung district of Baluchistan province and opened fire.

After the funerals, dozens of mourners blocked a main road in the city and burnt tires to protest the killings.

Three more people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a vehicle near Quetta as it headed to the site of the first attack.

In the northwest Wednesday, suspected militants opened fire on a military helicopter, slightly wounding one of the country's top military commanders.

Pakistani security officials said Major General Javed Iqbal was airborne in the mountainous Swat Valley when gunfire from the ground hit his helicopter and wounded him in the leg. Officials said the helicopter was able to continue on its flight.

Iqbal is one of Pakistan's commanding officers in the northwest, a region known for harboring domestic and Afghan Taliban groups as well as al-Qaida militants.

Pakistan's military said last year that its offensive against the Taliban in 2009 cleared Swat of militants, but sporadic violence has continued there.

The military also has been battling against Islamist militants in several other northwestern regions along its border with Afghanistan.