UNITED NATIONS - A group of United Nations human rights experts on Friday urged the Pakistani government to take decisive measures to end sectarian violence and protect religious minorities after a second incident of targeted killings in two weeks.

At least 18 Shias were killed on Tuesday after they were ordered off a bus in the Kohistan district, the three experts said in a joint press statement.

“These killings are extremely shocking and constitute acts that require the strongest response,” said Rita Izsak, the Independent Expert on Minority Issues. “They have sadly become a recurrent practice in Pakistan, and we urge the Pakistan government to identify and prosecute the perpetrators and do everything possible to establish strengthened security measures,” she added.

The experts expressed their condolences to the families of those killed and to all the Pakistani people who suffered from such acts of terror.

“These targeted killings once more display the appalling degree of religious hatred in a country, where there seems to be a failure to protect the security of religious minorities,” said Heiner Bielefeldt, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, stressed the government has an obligation to take all necessary measures to protect the right to life. “Failure to take appropriate steps to prevent, investigate and punish for such acts is a violation of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” he said.

The experts welcomed the condemnation expressed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. In a previous incident on 17 February more than 30 people were killed or wounded when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive close to a mosque in a mainly Shia neighbourhood in the Kurram tribal region.