Pro-govt tribal elder killed in Pak

KHAR: A pro-government tribal elder was killed Saturday when masked gunmen opened fire on his car in northwest Pakistan's Taliban-plagued tribal region, local officials said.

Malik Abdul Hamid, 35, a member of a peace council working with the government, was killed in Bajaur district as he travelled to a meeting of the local administration, local government official Abdul Malik told AFP.

Hamid's cousin was also wounded, he said, in the latest attack against tribal elders working with the government and against the Taliban militants holed up in the semi-autonomous belt stringing the Afghan border.

"It was an act of terrorism and an investigation has been launched," Malik said. Another tribal elder, Zahid Shah, confirmed the attack.

Last Monday, an anti-Taliban tribal leader and three of his guards were killed in a suicide car bombing on the outskirts of northwest Bannu district.

Pakistani security forces launched a huge operation against Islamist militants in Bajaur last August. In February, they claimed the area had been cleared, but unrest has rumbled on.

Hundreds of extremists are believed to have fled Afghanistan into Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal areas to carve out safe havens after the US-led invasion toppled the hardline Taliban regime in Kabul in late 2001.