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    Pakistan Minority Affairs Minister shot dead

    New Delhi: Pakistan Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was shot dead by unidentified gunmen outside his Islamabad residence on Wednesday morning.

    Bhatti, a vocal critic of the controversial blasphemy law, was attacked shortly after he left his residence in Sector I-8 at about 11.20 am local time.

    TV news channels reported that Bhatti, who had been receiving threats to his life since last year, was accompanied only by his driver and an unidentified woman and had no security guards.

    Deputy Inspector General Bin Yamin told the media that at least four attackers fired at Bhatti's car from different directions.

    Bhatti died on the way to hospital after being shot several times by the gunmen.

    A witness told Geo News channel that the gunmen stopped Bhatti's car and ordered his driver Gul Sher and the unidentified woman to get out of the car and then fired at the minister.

    Another witness said the firing continued for about 20 seconds.

    At least two gunmen fired at Bhatti while two more sat in a car, witnesses said.

    Shifa International Hospital spokesman Azmatullah Qureshi said that Bhatti was hit by several bullets.

    Bhatti, a Catholic, had been calling for changes in the country's controversial blasphemy laws.

    The gunmen threw several pamphlets in Urdu at the site of the attack that linked the attack on Bhatti to his opposition to the controversial blasphemy law.

    The pamphlets, issued by 'Tanzim Al Qaida Tehrik Taliban Punjab', said any one who insulted Prophet Mohammed would be given the death sentence.

    The pamphlet also said any sort of blasphemy or change in the blasphemy law would not be tolerated.

    Bhatti had received several death threats after opposing the blasphemy law and speaking in support of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death last year for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

    In an interview to the Christian Post, he had said, "The lower court would order punishment but the higher court would always acquit people. So it proves that this law is being used as a tool of victimisation against minorities and innocent people of Pakistan."

    Pakistan's Punjab province Governor Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own bodyguard just a few months ago, over his support to the blasphemy law.

    (With additional information from PTI)