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Taliban remove Bilour from hit-list for anti-Islam film bounty

September 26, 2012

Federal Minister for Railways Ghulam Ahmed Bilour.—Reuters Photo

PESHAWAR: The Pakistani Taliban say they are granting an “amnesty” to a Cabinet minister who is offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who kills the American maker of an anti-Islam film sparking deadly riots in the Muslim world.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told reporters on Wednesday that the minister’s views represent the true spirit of Islam. Consequently, the militants have removed him from their hit list.

“We have totally forgiven him and removed his name from our hit list,” the Taliban spokesman said in a phone call from an unknown location.

Ehsan said that Taliban shoora, a top consultative body, had met on Tuesday and “praised Bilour for his sacrifice for the cause of Islam”.

“The shoora paid rich tributes to Bilour and endorsed his bounty announcement,” he said.

But Ehsan clarified that others in Bilour’s secular party – The Awami National Party (ANP), which opposes the Taliban – won’t enjoy the reprieve.

Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour had announced a $100,000 bounty for the killing of the maker of “Innocence of Muslims” – a film which has sparked deadly protests throughout the Muslim world.  Bilour had also sought the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s help in the “noble cause” of killing the filmmaker.

Pakistan’s government says Bilour’s bounty doesn’t represent official policy, and his party, the ANP, has also distanced itself from the minister’s comments.

Bilour, however, insisted public opinion was behind him in Pakistan, which has seen widespread protests against the film including nationwide rallies on Friday that ended in bloodshed and looting, with at least 23 people killed.

“I expressed my personal view and faith. I stand by my declaration,” the 72-year-old Bilour had said on Tuesday. “My faith is non-violent, but I cannot forgive and tolerate (this insult),” he said.

Bilour had added that a businessman from Lahore had offered to put up a further $400,000 for the reward and said that freedom of speech should not be used as an excuse to insult Islam.

“Killing is not a good way, but right now it is the only way, because no action has been taken from Western countries (against the filmmaker),” he said.

Washington condemned Bilour’s reward offer as “inflammatory and inappropriate”, while the EU said it deplored it.

Bilour could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.