Police: 2nd mosque prayer leader killed in SW Pakistan
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani police said Saturday that a second mosque’s prayer leader had been killed in as many days near the southwestern city of Quetta.
Mohammad Azam was shot dead in front of a grocery store, according to Shafqat Mahmood, a police officer in Kuchlak, where the attacks occurred. On Friday, a bomb planted in a mosque under the prayer leader’s wooden chair killed him and three other worshippers and wounded 20.
Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan province, the scene of a low-level insurgency by separatists demanding more autonomy from the central government and a larger share of provincial resources. Islamic militants also operate there.
While Sunni militant groups have claimed past attacks on Shiites, the prayer leaders targeted this week were both Sunni.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Unconfirmed reports Friday said the prayer leader killed in the mosque, Maulvi Ahmadullah, was a relative or friend of Taliban chief Maulvi Hibatullah Akhunzada. The Taliban did not confirm or deny the reports, which said the group’s leader had lived in Kuchlak before taking the helm and moving to an undisclosed location inside Afghanistan.
Kuchlak is a stronghold of Taliban insurgents and a major crossing point for Afghan Taliban members to move between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The insurgency’s leadership meets, receives medical treatment or rests in the area. It is also the same area where Akhunzada operated several religious schools before becoming the Taliban chief.
Earlier Saturday, gunmen shot and killed Mir Amanullah Zehri, a tribal elder and senior politician from a Baluch nationalist party, said Younus Kibzai, an administrator in Khuzdar district. Zehri’s grandson and his two bodyguards were also killed as they were traveling together in a vehicle, he said.
The district administrator suggested the attack was a tribal dispute.
Khuzdar is around 300 kilometers (190 miles) south of Quetta.