An example of an early shooting between Shiites and Sunnis took place in Kurram, one of the tribal organizations in northwestern Pakistan, where the population of Pushtun was divided between Sunnis and Shiites. In September 1996, more than 200 people were killed when a shootout between Shiite and Sunni teenagers escalated into five days of municipal war. Women and children were abducted and armed men were even executed at a local hotel.  After the 1991 Gulf War, Shiites openly rebelled against Saddam and were encouraged by Saddam`s defeat in Kuwait and the simultaneous Kurdish insurgency in the north. However, the Shiite opposition to the government was brutally suppressed, resulting in between 50,000 and 100,000 casualties and successive repression by Saddam`s troops.  Until the 2003 Iraq war, the regimes in Iraq were predominantly Sunni for nearly a century. Shia Muslims, who make up about 8% of the Saudi population, have experienced employment discrimination and restrictions on religious practices. The Shiite jurisprudence books have been banned, the traditional annual procession of Shiite mourning in Ashura has been deterred and the exploitation of independent Islamic religious institutions has remained illegal. At least seven Shiite religious leaders – Abd al-Latif Muhammad Ali, Habib al-Hamid, Abd al-Latif al-Samin, Abdallah Ramadan, Sa`id al-Bahaar, Muhammad Abd al-Khidair and Habib Hamdah Sayid Hashim al-Sadah were reportedly imprisoned for violating these restrictions.  Today, there are three main branches of Shiite Islam – the Zaïdits, Ismailis and Ithna Asharis (Twelve or Imamis).
The Ithna Asharis are the most important group and believe that Muhammad`s religious leadership, spiritual authority and divine leadership were passed on to 12 of his descendants, starting with Ali, Hassan and Hussein. The current demographic distribution between the two denominations is difficult to assess and varies from source to source, but a good approach is that 85% of muslims in the world are Sunni and 15% are Shia Muslims, with most Shiites belonging to the Twelver tradition and the rest divided among many other groups.  Sunnis are the majority in most Muslim communities: Southeast Asia, China, South Asia, Africa and part of the Arab world. Shiites make up the majority of the population of Iraq, Bahrain, Iran and Azerbaijan and are a politically large minority in Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Kuwait.  At least one scholar considers the time of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by the decline of Arab nationalism as a period of unity and relative harmony between Traditionalist Sunni and Shia Muslims – the unity engendered by the feeling of being besieged by a common threat, secularism, first the European colonial variant, then the Arab nationalists.  In Nigeria – Africa`s most populous country – until recently, almost all Muslims were Sunni.  From 2017, estimates of the 90 to 95 million Shiite Shiite Muslims in Nigeria range from 20 million (Shiite estimate) to less than five million (Sunni estimate).  But this seems to have given way to a new period of conflict in the Middle East between Shiites and Sunnis.