MANSEHRA - Suspected militants in Babusar area of Mansehra district forced passengers to step out of four buses and shot dead 25 of them in an apparent sectarian attack on Thursday morning.

The terrorists hauled passengers off buses and after establishing their identity through computerised identity cards shot 25 of them dead and fled from the scene in the morning.

“The terrorists took out passengers from four vehicles and shot 25 of them dead after establishing their identity through their identity cards and fled from the scene,” said Dr Amber Ali Khan, the District Coordination Officer Mansehra while speaking to reporters.

Dr Amber who was the first officer to reach the carnage site along with DPO Sher Akbar said identity of nine victims was established and one each was from Karachi and Rawalpindi, two each were from Diammer and Astour and three belonged to Gilgit. The attack had taken place in between 6:00 to 7:00 am in the morning when terrorists intercepted the vehicles in the mountainous area.

Dr Amber said Babusar Top and the Harban attack in Kohistan, in which 20 people were killed earlier this year, were of same nature and almost all the victims were Shia.

Distirct administration has sent a medical team, including doctors and paramedics to Naran for postmortem of the victims.  The bodies would be airlifted to Gilgit-Baltistan once the postmortem would be completed.

The convoy of vehicles which came under attack had left Naran at 3:00 am in the morning on Thursday for Gilgit-Baltistan via Mansehra-Naran-Jalkad (MNJ) Road.  On February 28, 20 people were killed in an attack in Harban area of Kohistan.

Agencies add: The convoy of the buses was travelling between Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistan Army, and Gilgit.

The officials said about 15 armed men wearing army uniforms checked the identification cards of the passengers and then opened fire after learning they were Shias. “It is confirmed at least 25 people are dead,” said a senior police official.

“Ten to 15 people wearing army uniform stopped the bus and forced some people off the bus,” said Khalid Omarzai, administration chief in Mansehra.

Local police official Shafiq Gul told AFP that the gunmen were masked, but said the victims were pulled from three separate vehicles. Ten people were also wounded in the incident, witnesses said. It is the third such incident in six months.

Militant groups inspired by Al-Qaeda often attack religious minorities such as Shias in country, a strategic US ally facing a Taliban insurgency.

Meanwhile, President Zardari on Thursday took strict notice of the attack on passengers in Babusar asking for an inquiry in to the incident and a report from the concerned authorities.  As per the presidential spokesperson¸ President Zardari expressed his grave concern over the killing of 25 innocent people.