PESHAWAR, April 30 Militants in North Waziristan killed on Friday Khalid Khwaja, a former officer of the Inter-Services Intelligence, who was kidnapped on March 26 along with another ISI officer and Taliban sympathiser Col (retd) Amir Sultan Tarar and British journalist Asad Qureshi. Khalid Khwaja was shot in the head and chest. A little known Asian Tigers group had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

Khwaja's body was found near a stream in Karam Kot, about 7 kilometres south of Mirali.

Local people said they had seen the body but did not pick it up for fear of militants' attack. A senior official said a jirga of local notables and clerics deputed by the local administration had retrieved the body.

Officials said the body would be taken to Islamabad and handed over to family. A note found with the body said that Khwaja was working for the Americans and anybody working for them would meet the same fate.

An email sent to media by a spokesman for the Asian Tigers said that Khwaja was executed because the government had not met its demands, including release of senior Afghan Taliban leaders Mullah Baradar and Mansoor Dadullah.

Mr Javed Ibrahim Paracha, who played host to Khwaja and his companions when they had stopped over in Kohat on way to North Waziristan, said the Asian Tigers was an offshoot of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi comprising mostly Punjabi Taliban.

Mr Paracha said that Khwaja had told him they were going to North Waziristan to work on a documentary with a journalist from a British television channel to highlight collateral damage caused by drone attacks.

But Khwaja's son, Osama Khalid, told a private television channel his father had gone on a peace mission.

He said that a Punjabi militant named Osman had organised the group's visit to North Waziristan.

According to a journalist who had spoken to Khwaja before his departure for the restive region he had told him that he wanted to persuade the Taliban to stop suicide bombings and attacks inside Pakistan and instead focus their attention on combating the United States and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Khwaja served in the Inter-Services Intelligence for about a year and was dismissed from Air Force when he was a squadron leader during the days of Gen Ziaul Haq.

He rose to prominence during the Lal Masjid siege in 2007 when he took up the cause of missing people.

The kidnappers believed that he had duped Maulana Abdul Aziz, the radical head of Lal Masjid, into leaving the mosque wearing a burqa and then tipping off security personnel who arrested him. Khwaja's family strongly denies the allegation and says that the family of Maulana Abdul Aziz stayed with them for over a month after the siege.

But according to some analysts, the main reason for his murder might have been his offer to arrange talks with security agencies in return for militants' commitment to stop attacks inside Pakistan and focus instead on Afghanistan.

“This might have raised their (militants') suspicion,” said one analyst. Mr Paracha said that the vehicle of Tehrik-i-Taliban leader Wali-ur Rehman had come under a drone attack soon after he had met Khwaja and his companions. Because of the attack, he said, Waliur Rehman also wanted to get hold of him.

The militant group has not said anything about Col (retd) Amir Tarar and journalist Asad Qureshi. It is reported to have demanded a $10 million ransom for the journalist, but indi- cated to some negotiators they may consider releasing Tarar.

But a sinister line at the end of the email sent to reporters said 'what next?' which, according to the analysts, meant that there may be another killing.

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