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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 February, 2003, 04:35 GMT
Pakistani Shias gunned down
A father grieves for his son who was killed in the attack
Many of the victims were in their early 20s
Gunmen have opened fire inside a Shia place of worship in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, killing at least nine people and wounding several others.

At least three gunmen on motorcycles opened fire with automatic weapons at the entrance of the Imam Bargha just as worshippers were arriving for evening prayers, an interior ministry spokesman said.

No group has yet admitted responsibility for the attack.

Violence between opposing militants from the majority Sunni and minority Shia communities has claimed hundred of lives in Pakistan in recent years.

Most of the deaths have been blamed on a Sunni Muslim extremist group, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which has been banned by the government.

A breakaway faction of the SSP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, is also blamed for attacks on Shia Muslims and several of its members have been arrested.

'Screaming for help'

Among the victims of Saturday's attack was a seven-year-old boy who died of his injuries at a nearby hospital, the Associated Press reported.

Nine other people were injured, two of them seriously, AP reported.

I took shelter and did not know what was going on... after a while I saw my colleagues lying in a pool of blood
Anwar Hussain
eyewitness
About 25 worshippers were believed to be inside the building at the time of the shooting.

Eyewitness Anwar Hussain said he was watching a cricket match on television in a hotel next to the Imam Bargha when the call for prayer came.

"I took shelter and did not know what was going on. After a while I saw my colleagues lying in a pool of blood," he said.

"I started screaming for help."

The victims were mostly from northern Pakistan, fellow worshippers and relatives said.

A local official said many of the victims were in their early 20s.

The port city of Karachi has been the scene of numerous attacks in recent months, many against Westerners and minority Christians.

A bomb planted outside the US Consulate in Karachi last June killed 12 people and injured 50.

And, in May, a suicide bomb in the city killed 11 French engineers and three other people, including the bomber.





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WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Bob Berry
"They were attacked with no warning"



SEE ALSO:
Pakistan's Shia-Sunni divide
19 Mar 02 |  South Asia



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