Pakistan: 'Father of Taliban' cleric buried after attack

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Supporters of Maulana Sami ul-Haq attend his funeral in Akora Khattak, Pakistan. Photo: 3 November 2018Image source, EPA
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Maulana Sami ul-Haq's supporters attend the funeral prayers in Akora Khattak

Thousands of people have gathered for the funeral of Pakistani cleric Maulana Sami ul-Haq, known as the Father of the Taliban, who was killed on Friday.

Reports say a bomb disposal unit cleared the graveyard before Haq was buried in his home town of Akora Khattak, north-west of Islamabad.

Haq was the head of the Haqqania madrassa, where many Taliban members - including the group's founder, Mullah Omar - had studied.

The motive for the killing is unclear.

In a statement, the Afghan Taliban said his death was "a great loss for the entire Islamic ummah [community]".

Image source, Reuters
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Police and security personnel stand guard as people gather for Haq's funeral on Saturday

What is known about Friday's attack?

There are conflicting reports of exactly how Haq was killed.

The cleric's son said his father was stabbed "multiple times" in the house he owned in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad.

Image source, AFP/Getty Images
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Maulana Sami ul-Haq was an influential figure in Pakistan

"He was resting in his room during Asr time when his driver-cum-guard went out for 15 minutes," Maulana Hamid ul-Haq was quoted as saying by Pakistan's Geo TV.

"When he returned, he found Maulana Sami ul-Haq dead in his bed and his body covered in blood."

Meanwhile, Haq's nephew Mohammad Bilal told Reuters his uncle was found with stabbing and gunshot wounds in his house on Islamabad's outskirts.

No group has so far admitted to being behind the attack.

Violence fears

Afghan officials had recently asked the cleric, believed to have been in his 80s, to help convince the Taliban to begin peace negotiations.

Image source, AFP/Getty Images
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The funeral was held amid heavy security

He was a former senator who ran a faction of the religious Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party - and was close to Prime Minister Imran Khan's PTI party.

Mr Khan is currently on an official visit to Beijing, but his office said in a statement that he condemned the killing and had ordered an investigation.

The cleric's death comes at a time of turmoil in Pakistan, where protests have broken out in a number of cities after the acquittal of a Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges.

Haq had thousands of followers among his students, as well as Afghan and local Taliban members. The BBC's M. Ilyas Khan says there are fears that his killing may cause further trouble on the streets.