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Pakistani Cleric Known as 'Father' of Afghan Taliban Assassinated


FILE - Pakistani religious cleric, Sami-ul-Haq, second right, addresses a news conference with, Hameed Gul, former chief of Pakistan's intelligence, left, in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Unknown assailants in Pakistan have assassinated the top Islamist leader known as the father of Afghanistan's Taliban movement.

Family members confirmed that Maulana Sami-ul Haq, 81, was resting at his home Friday in Rawalpindi when he was killed with a knife. The slain leader's son, Maulana Hamid-ul Haq, said his father's security guard had gone to a nearby market when the attack occurred.

"When his guard returned home from the market, he found my father drowned in blood," he said, adding they immediately drove him to a nearby hospital, where Haq died.

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is in China on an official visit, condemned the assassination of the renowned cleric and ordered authorities to swiftly investigate it.

Haq was the head of the famous Haqqania madrasa, or religious seminary, in Akora Khatak, near Peshawar.

The slain cleric was internationally known as the father of the Taliban movement, which currently is fighting the U.S.-backed government in neighboring Afghanistan.

Many senior leaders of the Afghan insurgency had graduated from the seminary before the Islamist group emerged on the Afghan scene in the early 1990s and later took control of most of civil war-torn Afghanistan.

The Taliban denounced the killing of Haq, declaring it a "great loss for the Islamic world" and Pakistan.

"He supported the oppressed Afghan nation during the Soviet invasion and American occupation of the country through his unforgettable services," the Islamist insurgency said in a statement.

Haq, who was also the head of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (S) Islamic party, had promised to play his role and even host the Afghan peace talks.

A former member of the Senate, the upper house of Pakistan's parliament, Haq was a harsh critic of the U.S.-led military intervention in Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban from power in 2001 for harboring the leadership of the al-Qaida terrorist network.