PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A gunbattle between rival Sunni and Shiite Muslims left at least 13 people dead and seven wounded in a remote tribal area of northwestern Pakistan, a government official said Friday.
The violence in the Aurakzai tribal area began late Thursday, when armed men from the two sects tried to enter the shrine of a sufi saint to gain control of it, said Shah Zaman, government spokesman for Pakistan's northwestern tribal regions.
He said 13 people died, but it wasn't immediately clear how many were Shiites and how many were Sunnis.
"It is a sad incident, and we are trying to control the situation," Zaman told The Associated Press.
Tribal police were sent to the area, he said. Authorities were seeking the help of tribal elders to defuse tensions.
Kamal Shah, a resident of the village of Ziarat, where the clash happened, said both sides used rockets and other heavy weapons.
Shiite and Sunni followers of the sufi saint Anwar Shah Baba both claim they are the real custodian of his shrine. Clashes between the two groups are not uncommon in Aurakzai, which is 180 miles south of Pakistan's main northwestern city of Peshawar.
Although most majority Sunnis and minority Shiites live peacefully with each other in Pakistan, extremist elements from each side often attack the other's leaders and activists.