Pakistan Shrine Attack Kills Three Including Army Officer

W460

Gunmen killed three people including a senior army officer in an attack on a Sufi shrine in central Pakistan, officials said Monday, in the latest deadly sectarian violence to hit the country.

The incident happened in the town of Sargodha, 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of the capital Islamabad, late Saturday but was not immediately reported.

"Gunmen stormed the shrine of a Sufi saint on the outskirts of Sargodha town on Saturday night and opened indiscriminate fire, killing a senior officer of the military and two others," Muhammmad Farooq, a local police official, told AFP.

He named the officer as Fazal Noor Subhani, a serving brigadier.

"A religious gathering was going on in the shrine and around 35 people were present there during the time of the attack," he said.

Farooq told AFP that Fazal Noor Qadri, who was the shrine caretaker and the brigadier's brother, was also killed with one other person.

The dead men belonged to the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam that is influenced by Sufi mysticism.

Ghulam Murtaza, another senior police official, confirmed the incident.

Sufi shrines are popular among Muslims in South Asia but have come under attack in recent years from Sunni extremists in Pakistan, who see them as antithetical to Islam.

Barelvis make up the majority of Pakistan's Muslims, who in turn comprise around 97 percent of the country's 180 million people.

Pakistan is rife with violence against religious minorities. Al-Qaida and Taliban-led militants regularly target Christian, Sikhs, Hindus, Ahmadi and Shiite communities in the country.

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