TANK, May 31: Suspected militants attacked the house of a senior government official in the Jatai Qala area of the troubled Tank district after midnight on Wednesday and shot dead 13 people, two of them women. Two children were injured, police said.

The head of the Gomal police station, Sanaullah Marwat, said the militants, who had come in three or four vehicles, attacked the house of Amiruddin Khan, Khyber tribal region’s political agent, with rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and assault rifles.

“People in the house were asleep when they were attacked,” a senior government official in Peshawar told Dawn. He said he was certain that the militants had come from the adjoining South Waziristan tribal region.

Although Baitullah Mehsud, a militant commander in Waziristan, has denied his group’s involvement in terrorist attacks in Tank, government officials are convinced that he continues to foment violence in the southern district of the NWFP.

The officials said the militants fired indiscriminately on people in the house. Even women and children were not spared. The dead included six members of the family and seven guests. Mr Amiruddin’s two brothers — Aurangzeb, an employee of the works and services department, and the other, a student of the Government College, Lahore — were also killed. Only two children in the house survived the attack, although they suffered bullet injuries. One of them was taken to a Peshawar hospital because he was in critical condition.

Mr Marwat quoted one of the injured as saying: “One of the assailants shouted to his men nobody should be left alive, not even women and children.” He said the assault continued for more than an hour.

Police said they were investigating the killings from different angles, but the focus was on the involvement of militant groups.

“Investigators cannot rule out the involvement of militants,” Mr Marwat told Dawn. However, no group has claimed responsibility till late on Thursday night.

Officials said Amiruddin Khan belonged to a spiritual family of the South Waziristan Agency. One of his brothers, Attiqur Rehman, was a “Pir” and his actions might have antagonised some people.

But the senior official in Peshawar said it would premature to say what prompted the attack.

After expulsion from his native area, Pir Attiq shifted to Karachi where he now has a large number of followers. He brings out a magazine, Zarbe Haq, from Karachi to propagate his ideology.

Officials said the self-proclaimed Pir published editorials and articles in his magazine against militant commander Abdullah Mahsud and described him as an agent of the US.

The 40-year-old Pir has been a strong critic of Talibanisation and militancy in the tribal region. Recently, officials said, his magazine carried an article stating that he was the most suitable person for becoming a caliph.

Sources said the Pir had survived an attack last year. A few days ago, he came to the area to participate in the funeral of his elder brother. Officials said the whereabouts of the controversial Pir were not unknown.

The latest attack is the deadliest so far in Tank which is plagued by Talibanisation and is seeing almost daily clashes and attacks by militants from the tribal region. Recently, a curfew was imposed in the town after an attack by militants.

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