QUETTA -  Gunmen on Monday morning killed five people, including three Shiite Muslims, in a sectarian attack at Allah Dina Street near Gawalmandi Chowk area of the provincial capital, police said.

Two men on a motorbike attacked a vehicle carrying four Shiite vegetable sellers. “The local police escort the Shiite vegetable sellers daily. On the day of the incident, one of the vehicles fell victim to gunmen after it got separated from the rest of the escort,” senior police officer Abdur Razzaq Cheema said.

He said the gunmen killed three Shiites from the Hazara community, the van driver and a passerby. One Shiite vegetable seller suffered several bullet wounds, but survived.

Another senior local police official, Naseeb Ullah, confirmed the incident and casualties. Both the officials described the incident as a sectarian attack on Shiite Hazaras.

The bodies and the injured were shifted to Civil Hospital Quetta where the four bodies were identified as Saleh Muhammad s/o Mullah Abdul Hassan Bareech, Muhammad Ali s/o Ghulam Sarwar Hazara, Khadim Hussain s/o Muhammad Ali Hazara, Syed Sarwar s/o Syed Hussain Hazara. The identity of one body could not be ascertained.

Law-enforcement agencies reached the site, cordoned off the entire area and started efforts to trace out attackers.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Taliban militants have targeted Shiite Hazaras in the past. Shiites form 20 percent of Pakistan’s 200 million people. Attacks have claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade. Balochistan which borders Iran and Afghanistan has ample oil and gas resources, but is afflicted by sectarian violence.

The victims were on their way to Sabzi Mandi from Mariabad when their vehicle was targeted by the unknown assailants, who were riding a motorcycle.

The gunmen escaped unhurt after carrying out the attack which appears to be an act of targeted killing, police officials added.

Later, four of the bodies were handed over to their families in Quetta, hospital officials said, adding one of the deceased is still in the morgue as he hails from Shangla, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The victim community members staged a sit-in with coffins at Alamdar Road and demanded action against the perpetrators and safety for the Hazaras.

Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri also condemned the incident and ordered the authorities concerned to take concrete steps for the safety of Hazara community members going to Hazarganji fruits markets in security convoys.