PESHAWAR: The Pakistani Taliban claimed on Saturday they had shot dead a retired intelligence official who once mentored their Afghan brethren and sided with the US against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The claim contradicted Pakistani government`s assertions last month that Sultan Amir Tarar died of a heart attack while being held captive by militants in northwest part of the country. “We have killed him. We shot him,” Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan told AP via phone from an undisclosed location.
Tarar — better known as Col Imam — once trained at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and gave personal tours of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region to US congressmen interested in supporting Afghan militiamen fighting Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, he became Pakistan`s point man with the Afghan Taliban, then seen by Islamabad as allies. He provided the movement with arms and money and was known to be close to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
He remained publicly sympathetic to the Afghan Taliban since the movement`s downfall in 2001 in the US-led invasion, but denied any operational ties.
He and another former intelligence official, Khalid Khawaja, accompanied a British TV journalist to Pakistan`s northwest in early 2010. Tarar and Khawaja may have felt their sympathies with militant groups would shield them from any danger, but all three were kidnapped in March. Khawaja was later killed, while the journalist was set free.
A previously unknown militant group calling itself the Asian Tigers initially said it had seized the men. But in July, Tarar appeared in a video saying he was being held by another group and that it was demanding the release of prisoners held by the government in exchange for his release.
Taliban spokesman Ahsan said on Saturday they shot Tarar after the government failed to meet unspecified demands by the group.
“We repeatedly tried to convince the government. It did not listen to our demands. As a result, we killed him,” he said.
A private news TV channel briefly aired parts of what it said was a video showing Tarar being shot. The clips included footage of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud. However, the channel did not show the actual shooting on Saturday, saying it was too graphic to air. The authenticity of the footage could not immediately be independently verified.—AP