PESHAWAR - Fifteen people were killed Tuesday after a roadside bomb targeted a minibus in the Godar area of Kurram Agency.

Local government officials said the blast ripped through the bus as it travelled through a Shia region of the tribal area, which borders Afghanistan. The area has a long history of sectarian violence.

Five women and four children were among the 15 killed, while nine people were wounded in the explosion. The injured included four Khasadar official who were on way to perform census duty.

Jamat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway Taliban faction, said it was behind the attack on the Shias. A spokesman for the defunct organisation, Asad Mansur said in a statement the explosive device had been intended to target the Shias and workers in the area carrying out a census.

Sources said that the passenger minibus was on way from Godar to Sadda when it was hit by the bomb near Pato Kot village.

Militants planted the remote-controlled bomb and when the passengers were coming, they detonated it,” Kurram Assistant Political Agent Shahid Ali Khan said.

Soon after the incident, locals rushed to the spot and shifted the injured to Agency Headquarters Hospital in Parachinar, the main town of Kurram.

As the area do not have adequate medical facilities to treat the seriously injured, an army helicopter was used to airlift them to the Combine Military Hospital in Peshawar.

The identity of the deceased and the injured could not be ascertained immediately.

For more than a decade, Pakistan has been fighting religious and sectarian militants who have killed tens of thousands of people. Islamabad has also undertaken several large-scale offensives in the tribal regions in an effort to rout militants from the area.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered officials to “extend maximum support” for the treatment of the injured, his office said.

Pakistan, a mainly Muslim nation of about 190 million people, is conducting a nationwide census but militants have frequently targeted officials collecting the data.

Pakistani Taliban and other Sunni militant groups also often target minority Shias whom they consider to be heretics. The Islamic State group has also claimed several recent attacks in the country.

Since 2002, more than 2,600 Shias, who form about 20 percent of the country’s population, have been killed in sectarian attacks in the country, data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal shows.

Sectarian tensions between Sunni majority and the Shia minority have particularly flared in the recent past in Parachinar and the surrounding areas.

It was second attack targeting Shias in the area in the last 25 days as on March 31 a powerful explosion at the main bazaar of Parachinar had also claimed 20 lives and injured dozens of others. In January, a bomb planted in a busy vegetable market also killed 21 people. Both blasts were claimed by the JuA.