Suspected militants fatally shoot Islamic cleric in Pakistan

Suspected Islamic militants opened fire on a car carrying an Islamic cleric near a tribal town in northwestern Pakistan, killing him and abducting his three body guards, an intelligence official said Thursday.

Gunmen, who were wearing masks and driving in another car, attacked the cleric, Maulvi Sibghatullah, on a road Wednesday near Ladha, a small town in the South Waziristan tribal region, the official said on condition of anonymity because of the secretive nature of his job.

Sibghatullah died at the scene and the assailants seized his three body guards and bundled them into their car and drove away. One of Sibghatullah's men later escaped from the militants' custody while the two others are still missing, he said.

Military officials have said Central Asian, Arab and Afghan militants, allegedly linked with al-Qaida, and their local supporters are operating in the area.

The fighters are blamed for attacking security forces and tribal elders who are suspected of helping the authorities in the hunt for them.

Sibghatullah's killing appeared to be a result of internal differences among the militants because he was believed be trying to set up a breakaway faction that he planned to lead, the official said.

In other violence in South Waziristan on Wednesday, a roadside bomb explosion injured a soldier who was on a security patrol and another bomb blast at a state-run telephone exchange disrupted dozens of telephone lines in Shakai, a mountain valley in the region, reports the AP.


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