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Sunni Leader Assassinated in Pakistan - 2003-10-06


In Pakistan, unidentified gunmen have assassinated a prominent Sunni Muslim militant leader and member of parliament, Azam Tariq, along with four other people.

Witnesses and police say the daylight attack took place Monday on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad. At least three gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on a car that was carrying Sunni Muslim lawmaker Azam Tariq and his three bodyguards. All the occupants of the vehicle were killed, including the driver.

The attack comes just two days after six worshippers from the minority Shiite Muslims were killed in an attack in the southern city of Karachi.

No group has claimed responsibility for Monday's attack on Mr. Tariq.

Mr. Tariq was the head of a Sunni militant Islamic group, Sipah-e-Sahaba, that President Pervez Musharraf banned, along with several others early last year in an effort to eliminate extremism in Pakistan.

But like other parties, the group is operating under a new name, and Mr. Tariq was allowed to compete in parliamentary elections that took place near the end of last year (October 2002). He won a seat in parliament, even though he had to conduct his campaign from a prison cell, having been jailed by the Musharraf government for inciting extremism as head of Sipah-e-Sahaba. He was released shortly after the elections when a court ruled there was no proof he was involved in sectarian violence.

Mr. Tariq's family say he was on his way to Islamabad to attend a session of the lower house of the parliament. The parliamentary session was adjourned Monday out of respect for the slain Muslim leader.

Senior government officials say police are investigation the assassination.

Police say the attack could be part of the ongoing sectarian violence between Pakistan's dominant Sunni Muslims and Shiites. The rivalry has claimed hundreds of lives in the Muslim country in recent years. The worst such incident took place in July this year, when suicide bombers stormed a mosque in the southwestern city of Quetta, killing more than 50 worshipers.

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