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Nine Worshipers Killed by Unknown Gunmen in Pakistan - 2002-02-26

Police in Pakistan say unknown gunmen have shot dead at least nine worshipers during the latest outbreak of sectarian violence in the Muslim country.

Most of the victims belong to Pakistan's Shiite Muslim minority. Police say the attack took place at a mosque in a crowded neighborhood in Rawalpindi, not far from the Pakistani capital.

Witnesses say the gunmen were on a motorcycle when they drove up to the gate of the mosque and opened fire on some 40 worshipers offering evening prayers. More than two dozen people are said to have been injured in the shooting.

No group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack. Pakistani authorities are calling it an act of terrorism.

This is the second such incident in Pakistan in less than a week. On Thursday, five Shiite Muslims were killed near the city of Multan. Police say attackers with automatic weapons broke into the house of a local Shiite leader and fired on his family.

Officials in Pakistan estimate that more than 400 people were killed in religiously motivated violence in the country last year. This has prompted Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to outlaw two major extremist groups representing Shiite and Sunni communities. They are blamed for encouraging sectarian violence in mostly Sunni Muslim Pakistan.

President Musharraf announced the decision on January 12 as part of a government campaign to crush extremist forces in Pakistan.