Gunmen kill Shi'ite director of Pakistan university

LAHORE (AFP) - Unidentified gunmen riding a motorcycle on Tuesday killed a senior Shi'ite university director along with his driver in an apparent sectarian attack in central Pakistan, officials said.

The attack comes after several deadly clashes between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim groups near the capital Islamabad and in the northwest since Friday.

Mr Syed Shabir Hussain Shah, director of student affairs at Gujrat University in Punjab province, was killed while on his way to the campus.

"Gunmen riding a motorbike sprayed bullets on his vehicle when he was about to reach the university in (the) morning. His driver was also killed in the attack," district police chief Ali Nasir Rizvi told AFP.

"At the moment, we don't know about the numbers of the attackers, but the incident looks like a targeted killing," he said.

A colleague said Mr Shah had previously received threats.

Pakistan is facing rising sectarian violence, with Sunni militant groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban often attacking gatherings of shi'ites, who make up some 20 per cent of the country's overwhelmingly Muslim population.

Officials suspect the latest attack was in retaliation for violence in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Friday in which a mainly Sunni mosque was burnt and 10 people, mostly Sunnis, were killed.

The Pakistani Taliban, a Sunni militant group blamed for several sectarian attacks against Shi'ites in the past, threatened Tuesday to avenge the Rawalpindi clashes.

Shahidullah Shahid, spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), accused the Pakistani government of being involved in violence against Sunni Muslims and blamed Shi'ites for the attack on the mosque.

"Pakistani government and its secret agencies were involved in this cruelty and barbarism. Soon we will take a revenge of this killing," Shahid told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.