Islamabad: The Taliban in northwest Pakistan killed three of their own men for murdering former Inter-Services Intelligence agency official Khalid Khwaja,
reflecting the widening rift within militant ranks.
The bullet-riddled bodies of the three Taliban fighters were found near Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal region, this morning, a witness said. He said a note placed on one of the bodies stated that the three men had killed Khwaja for ransom and that the Taliban had taken the "correct step" against them.
"The bodies were completely mutilated," said the witness, who requested not to be identified due to security concerns. One of the dead men was a member of the Punjabi
Taliban and the other two were members of the Mehsud tribe.
Today`s incident reflected the widening rift within the Taliban in North Waziristan as it was the second instance of infighting in less than two months. In late August, militant commander Usman Punjabi, who was believed to be involved in the abduction and killing
of Khwaja, was killed along with five accomplices in a mysterious shootout between two groups in Dandey Darpakhel area of North Waziristan.
Khwaja was killed near Miranshah on April 30, over a month after he was kidnapped along with former ISI official Sultan Amir Tarar alias Colonel Imam, Asad Qureshi, a British journalist of Pakistani origin, and their driver Rustam Khan.
The men had apparently gone to the tribal belt to make a documentary about Al Qaeda and the Taliban. A hitherto unheard of group called the Asian Tigers claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.
Experts said the Asian Tigers largely comprised militants from Punjab. Qureshi and Khan were released in September. Colonel Imam continues to be in captivity and the Taliban have demanded the release of several militants in exchange for him.
Sources close to the Taliban have also said that there was a gun battle between militants loyal to Usman Punjabi and members of the Sabir Mehsud group over the division of the ransom received for the release of Asad Qureshi.