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At least nine dead after militants open fire on bus in northern Pakistan

 (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
(Yui Mok/PA Wire)

At least nine people were killed and more than 20 injured after militants opened fire on a bus in northern Pakistan.

The attack happened on the Karakoram Highway in northern Gilgit Baltistan region on Saturday night, police officer Azmat Shah said.

The road connects Pakistan with China and also passes through the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which has been a hotbed of terrorism in the past due to the presence of Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups in the area.

The bus was carrying passengers from Gilgit to the city of Rawalpindi when it was shot at, causing the driver to lose control and crash into a truck, which then caught fire. Both drivers died at the scene.

At least 26 people were injured - including local Islamic cleric Mufti Sher Zaman - and transferred to local hospitals.

Shams Lone, the home minister of Gilgit Baltistan, called the incident an "act of terrorism".

Interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar condemned the attack, saying "anti-state elements would not be allowed to sabotage the peace of Gilgit Baltistan".

A special investigation team has been formed to look into the attack and apprehend those behind it, according to the chief minister of Gilgit Baltistan, Gulbar Khan.

In a statement on Sunday, Muhammad Khorasani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, denied his group was behind the shooting.

The TTP is a separate group but allied with the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and Nato troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country. It has waged aninsurgency in Pakistan over the past 15 years.