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Rival of Pakistani Taliban leader killed

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A tribal leader who opposed the Taliban chief in Pakistan was shot dead on Tuesday in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan.

In recent weeks, Qari Zainuddin has criticized the Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud – who has claimed responsibility for most terrorist attacks in Pakistan since 2004 – and decried his activities as un-Islamic. Mr. Zainuddin's bold statements against Mr. Mehsud had led to speculation that the Pakistani government and military were encouraging the tribal leader to confront his rival. Zainuddin was also affiliated with the Mehsud tribe and heads the militant group that was previously led by Abdullah Mehsud, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee.

Tribal infighting between the two had gone unchecked by the authorities, apparently in the hope that Zainuddin's opposition to Mehsud would weaken the Taliban leader's position. However, with Zainuddin's death, hopes of exploiting tribal rivalries to defeat Mehsud have been dampened.

According to the BBC, a guard entered Zainuddin's office on Tuesday after morning prayers and opened fire. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, it is believed to be Mehsud's work. "It was definitely Baitullah's man who infiltrated our ranks, and he has done his job," said Baz Mohammad, an aide of Zainuddin who was also wounded in the attack, the BBC reported.

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