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Pakistan minorities minister shot dead in Islamabad

Pakistani Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti has died after gunmen opened fire on his car in the capital Islamabad, hospital officials say.

He was travelling to work through a residential district when his vehicle was sprayed with bullets, police said.

Mr Bhatti, the cabinet's only Christian minister, had received death threats for urging reform to blasphemy laws.

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Shahbaz Bhatti had said he had been threatened, but that he would not be intimidated

In January, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who had also opposed the law, was shot dead by one of his bodyguards.

The blasphemy law carries a death sentence for anyone who insults Islam. Critics say it has been used to persecute minority faiths.

'No security escort'
Mr Bhatti, 42, a leader of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), had just left home in the capital when four gunmen surrounded his vehicle and sprayed it with bullets.

He was rushed to the nearby Shifa hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival, Dr Azmatullah Qureshi told the AFP news agency.

The gunmen escaped in a car, witnesses said.

Television footage showed Mr Bhatti's vehicle riddled with bullet holes. Reports said it did not have a security escort.

No group has said it was behind the attack, but pamphlets purporting to have been issued by al-Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab, a branch of the Taliban in Pakistan's most populous province, were found at the ambush site.

The pamphlets warned that anyone who criticised the blasphemy law would be shot.

Read on

TAGGED: BLASPHEMY, HARM, ISLAM


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