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Waziristan Tribal Leader Assassinated In Afghanistan

Malik Mohammad Omar Khan Wazir
Malik Mohammad Omar Khan Wazir

A Pashtun leader who had questioned Pakistani military operations in his North Waziristan homeland has been assassinated in southeastern Afghanistan, where he had been living in exile for more than two years.

Afghan officials said Malik Mohammad Omar Khan Wazir was killed inside a guesthouse adjacent to his house in southeastern Khost Province late on October 5.

Provincial spokesman Mubariz Mohammad Zadran said Wazir was killed by unknown assailants who escaped after the assassination.

“Our police and investigative agencies promptly reached the crime scene,” Zadran told Radio Mashaal on October 6. “But we have not arrested anyone so far.”

Wazir and his extended family moved into a refugee camp in Khost’s Gurbuz district after the Pakistani military launched a major offensive against Islamist militants in their North Waziristan homeland in June 2014.

The operation forced more than 1 million civilians, mostly members of the Wazir and Daur Pashtun tribes, to flee their homes. While a majority of the displaced sought shelters in the nearby Pakistani city of Bannu, Malik Wazir and 100,000 others moved across the border into Khost.

The middle-aged tribal leader was a known critic of the Pakistani military offensive in North Waziristan.

“I was never a terrorist or a member of the Taliban, and I never sheltered any foreigners, but still Pakistan forced us to abandon our home and seek shelter here,” he told Radio Mashaal. “This is why [Pakistani] Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif] should apologize to us instead of expecting us to apologize.”

In recent months, Pakistani authorities have been asking exiled North Waziristan civilians in Khost to promptly return to their homeland.

But Malik Wazir opposed the conditions Islamabad has attached to helping facilitate their return.

“I was the one who lost my house, business, and belongings [because of Pakistani military offensive]. Now they are demanding that [in return for allowing us back] we should not seek any future trade with Afghanistan,” he told Radio Mashaal. “They told us we are responsible for any future Taliban attacks in our territory. It is impossible to agree to such demands.”

Community and clan leaders in Pakistan’s western Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where North Waziristan is one of its seven districts, have paid a heavy toll for the decade-long unrest in their homeland.

Malik Saleem Khan is the latest victim in a long string of assassinations that that seen hundreds of prominent figures killed in North Waziristan since 2004. Most tribal districts have endured similar targeted assassination campaigns.

Locals accuse Islamabad of failing to investigate most of the assassinations in FATA.