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Pakistani politician Imran Khanwill be killed if he enters Taliban stronghold, group says Pakistani politicianImran Khan 'will be killed' if he enters Taliban stronghold. Photograph: AamirQureshi/AFP/Getty Images
The Pakistani Taliban havethreatened to kill Imran Khan if the cricket player turned politician holds aplanned march to their tribal stronghold to protest against US drone attacks. Althoughthe Pakistani Taliban oppose the strikes, which have killed many of theirfighters, a spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, said they would target Khan because hecalls himself a "liberal". Ahsan also warned they would attack anyonewho participates in upcoming elections.
"If he comes, our suicidebombers will target him," Ahsan said in an interview in the militantgroup's South Waziristan stronghold. "We will kill him."
The threat could come as asurprise to many in Pakistan who have criticised Khan for not being toughenough on the Pakistani Taliban and instead focusing most of his criticism onthe government's alliance with the US. Some critics have nicknamed him"Taliban Khan" because of his views and his cosy ties withconservative Islamists who could help him attract rightwing voters in nationalelections likely to be held later this year or early next year.
Khan, who is the founder of thePakistan Movement for Justice party, has gained momentum over the past yearafter more than a decade in politics. He is perhaps the most famous person inPakistan because he led the country's cricket team to victory in the 1992 WorldCup.
Khan was once known for hisplayboy lifestyle and marriage to the British socialite Jemima Khan. But thecouple divorced several years ago, and he has since become more conservativeand religious. Khan has described himself as a liberal in various TVinterviews, but has also made clear that he is a practising Muslim.