Suspected militants kill pro-government Islamic cleric in Pakistan

Suspected militants killed a prominent Islamic cleric in a tribal region in northwestern Pakistan because they believed he had cooperated with authorities who are hunting them, intelligence officials said Monday.

The body of Janat Mir Khan was found early Monday near Zeraki, a village in North Waziristan tribal area, a week after he was abducted, one of the officials said on condition of anonymity because of the secretive nature of his job.

Khan, 55, had been shot in the chest, he said.

Another intelligence official, who requested anonymity for the same reason, confirmed the cleric's killing, saying that Khan had survived a bomb explosion near his home in January and had received letters from militants warning him not to cooperate with the authorities.

Khan frequently attended meetings with government security officials in Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, and in the capital of the North West Frontier province Peshawar, one of the agents said.

Islamic militants are suspected in the killing of scores of local tribesmen whom they accuse of assisting authorities or of spying for the United States.

Khan's killers left a note with his body, written in the locally spoken Pashtu language, that threatened the same fate for anyone else found cooperating with the government, one intelligence official said.

Security officials have said Arab, Central Asian and Afghan militants, allegedly linked with al-Qaida _ are in the North and the adjoining South Waziristan tribal regions. The fighters have fought intense battles with security forces and have been blamed for roadside bombings targeting troops in both areas.

But in recent months most of the fighting has been blamed on local tribal militants suspected of links with Afghanistan's ousted Taliban militia.

Since January of this year, gunbattles between militants and security forces, rocket attacks and roadside bombings have left 51 soldiers and 317 militants dead, according to an Associated Press tally based on reports from the area, reports the AP.

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