Gunmen kill `peace broker` in Pakistan`s S Waziristan

The cleric, Malik Mirajuddin, was gunned down in a pre-dawn attack in Tank.

Peshawar: Gunmen killed on Thursday a leading Islamic cleric who helped broker peace deals between the government and Taliban militants in Pakistan`s northwestern South Waziristan region, an aide and officials said.

The cleric, Malik Mirajuddin, was gunned down in a pre-dawn attack in Tank, a volatile town bordering South Waziristan.

"Two men driving on a motorbike sprayed bullets on Maulana Mirajuddin as he was walking to his home after offering prayers in a nearby mosque," Niaz Mohammad Qureshi, an aide to Mirajuddin, said.

A police official in Tank said Mirajuddin sustained serious wounds and died on his way to hospital.

Neither Qureshi nor police official commented on who could be behind Mirajuddin`s murder. No one claimed responsibility for the killing.

Militants have killed hundreds of tribal elders and government officials in Pakistan`s lawless tribal belt along the Afghan border over recent years. Many were killed on suspicion of spying.

Pakistan`s Army launched a major offensive in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan last October, killing hundreds of insurgents and destroying their major bases.

Mirajuddin was a former member of Parliament and a senior member of a pro-Taliban Islamic group, Jamiat-e-ulema-e-Islam.

He was instrumental in a peace deal between the government and Taliban in 2005. He was also a senior member of a committee of tribal elders that brokered a ceasefire between the government and Baitullah Mehsud, then Pakistani Taliban chief, in 2007. Mehsud was killed in a missile strike by US drone aircraft in South Waziristan last year.

Bureau Report