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Pakistani tribal militants execute Muslim cleric

By Staff
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PESHAWAR, Pakistan, May 1 (Reuters) Pro-Taliban militants have shot dead a cleric they suspected of informing for Pakistani security forces fighting al-Qaeda guerillas and their Taliban allies in the Waziristan tribal region, officials said today.

The body was found in a market area near Mir Ali town, 25 km (15 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town of the restive North Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan.

Intelligence and government officials said Maulana Janaat Mir, aged 80, was kidnapped by militants last week.

''Maulana (Mir) was also head of his tribe and his name was on a militants' hit list circulated to people of the area five months ago,'' an intelligence official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.

He said the list contained the names of 28 tribesmen suspected of being informers or spies for either the Pakistan government or American forces hunting al-Qaeda remnants across the border in Afghanistan.

At least four suspected informers have been beheaded in North and South Waziristan in recent weeks.

Tribesmen found decapitated bodies with notes attached saying the victims were American spies and warning others they would face the same fate.

The Pakistani military said on Saturday security forces were gaining the upper hand in the region.

It said 324 pro-Taliban militants and al Qaeda had been killed in North Waziristan since the middle of last year, with almost half of them killed in the past two months.

Many al Qaeda militants and their Taliban allies fled to Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt after they were chased out of Afghanistan by US-backed forces in late 2001.

REUTERS SHB HS1219

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