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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Gunmen ambush, kill Pakistani intelligence official

KOHAT, Pakistan, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Suspected militants on a motorbike shot and killed a Pakistani intelligence official in a semi-autonomous tribal region in the country's northwest, officials said on Thursday.

The motive for the attack had yet to be determined but Pakistani security forces have been battling Islamist militants in the region for several years and militants have launched numerous attacks on security forces in response.

"He died instantly while his driver and another man in the car escaped unhurt," said a government official in the town of Darra Adam Kheil, where the attack took place on Wednesday.

The murdered official, from the Interior Ministry's Intelligence Bureau, was returning from talks with tribal leaders on rising crime when the gunmen struck.

But he had previously been posted in Peshawar where he had been involved in major operations, an Intelligence Bureau official in Islamabad said.

"He was a very important man. He played a key role in gathering information that led to a few major operations," said the official, who declined to be identified as he is not authorised to speak publicly on bureau affairs.

Darra Adam Kheil, a small, dusty town near the northwestern city of Peshawar, is known as Pakistan's "gun capital". The town's ethnic Pushtun residents have been making weapons, including rifles, pistols and shotguns, there for generations.

Though notorious as a haven for smugglers, the town has been relatively free of the militant violence that has plagued other parts of Pakistan's tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan.

Few of Pakistan's federal laws apply in tribal areas and the government runs them indirectly, through centuries-old tribal traditions. (Additional reporting by Kamran Haider)
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