TANK, Pakistan (Reuters) -Militants in Pakistan beheaded an Afghan cleric they accused of spying for U.S. forces fighting insurgents in Afghanistan, officials said on Wednesday.
The murdered cleric, Akhtar Usmani, 30, had spoken out against militancy in a Pakistani region on the Afghan border where some analysts say the government has virtually handed power to pro-Taliban militants.
Usmani was found dumped beside a road in the South Waziristan region, a hotbed of Islamist support to the west of the town of Tank, on Tuesday evening.
“The body was in a big bag while his head was placed nearby in the open,” said the region’s deputy administrator, Amin Akbar Khan.
A note found with the body accused Usmani of spying for the Americans, said another official who declined to be identified.
Pro-Taliban militants said Usmani was a prayer leader in a mosque in North Waziristan and who had criticized militancy.
“He recorded several cassettes in which he criticized us and the Taliban,” a militant said by telephone. He declined to comment when asked who had killed Usmani.
Militants in North and South Waziristan have killed dozens of people they accused of being Pakistani government supporters or U.S. spies.
Many Taliban and al Qaeda militants fled to Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal lands from Afghanistan after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban in 2001.
Pakistani forces tried to clear out foreign militants and subdue their Pakistani allies after 2001 and hundreds of people were killed. But the government later signed peace deals aimed at ending the fighting and stopping raids into Afghanistan.
Critics say the deals have given the militants free rein and led to the “Talibanisation” of a region that has become a haven for al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The government of President Pervez Musharraf, a major ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, defends the deals and dismisses concern about Talibanisation.