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Gunmen Kill 'Peace Broker' in NW Pakistan

Gunmen in northwest Pakistan have killed an influential former lawmaker who helped broker peace deals between the government and Taliban militants.

A local police officer said Maulana Mirajuddin was shot while on his way home from morning prayers Thursday in the town of Tank, which borders South Waziristan. Two gunmen rode up beside Mirajuddin on a motorcycle and opened fire on him.

Mirajuddin was hit by several bullets and died on his way to the hospital. He had served both as a member of parliament and a senior leader of a pro-Taliban Islamic group (Jamiatul Ulema-e-Islam).

Mirajuddin was instrumental in brokering a peace deal between the government and the Pakistani Taliban in 2005 and another cease-fire in 2007 with former Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud. Mehsud was killed in a U.S. missile attack last year.

No one has claimed responsibility for Mirajuddin's killing. Militants have killed hundreds of tribal elders and government officials in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt along the Afghan border to intimidate others from helping the state.

In other violence, officials in the southern city of Karachi say at least 17 people have been killed in the past 24 hours in suspected factional violence. Authorities say they believe the rival ethnic political parties in Karachi played a role in the killings.

In other news Thursday, the Swedish embassy in Islamabad announced it is closed until further notice because of the security situation in Pakistan. A statement on the embassy's website did not give details.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.