Anti-Taliban cleric killed by bomb

A prominent Pakistani cleric who spoke out against the Taliban and supported the government's military operation against militants has been killed in a suicide bomb attack.

Sarfraz Naeemi, who had organised demonstrations against the Taliban and helped form an alliance of religious organisations opposed to the brutal interpretation of Islam, was attacked at his mosque in Lahore after leading Friday prayers. "Unfortunately, Maulana Sarfraz Naeemi has been martyred," said Pervez Rathore, the head of the city's police force. Another person was killed in the attack and seven wounded.

Mr Naeemi's high-profile campaign had made him and his mosque highly vulnerable. Last month, the new Sunni Ittehad Council, made up of 22 different groups, held a news conference where it said the Taliban's authoritarian brand of Islam was creating problems for moderate Muslims. Announcing a "Save Pakistan" campaign, the council, which claimed to represent about 85 million followers of the moderate Barelvi school of Sunni Islam, declared: "We strongly condemn the Taliban and urge the Pakistan military to eliminate them at the earliest."

The council said it would "unveil the real face of the Taliban before the public" by highlighting public executions and floggings.

Mr Naeemi and the alliance were also monitoring young students in their seminaries who may be vulnerable to approaches from militants after it was reported the Taliban may be targeting such institutions for recruits.

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