Taliban threat to kill Imran Khan

The Taliban has threatened to kill Pakistan cricket star turned politician Imran Khan if he holds a planned march to their tribal stronghold along the Afghan border to protest against US drone attacks.

Although the Pakistani Taliban also opposes the strikes, which have killed many of their fighters, spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said it would target Mr Khan because he calls himself a "liberal" - a term they associate with a lack of religious belief.

He also warned they would attack anyone who participates in forthcoming elections.

"If he comes, our suicide bombers will target him," Mr Ahsan told Associated Press in an interview in the militant group's stronghold of South Waziristan. "We will kill him."

The threat could come as a surprise to many in Pakistan who have criticised Mr Khan for not being tough enough on the Pakistani Taliban and instead focusing most of his criticism on the government's alliance with the United States.

Some of his critics have nicknamed him "Taliban Khan" because of his views and his cosy ties with conservative Islamists who could help him attract right-wing voters in national elections likely to be held later this year or early next year.

Mr Khan, who is the founder of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party, has gained momentum over the last year after more than a decade in politics. He is perhaps the most famous person in Pakistan because he led the country's cricket team to victory in the 1992 World Cup.

Mr Khan was once known for his playboy lifestyle and marriage to British socialite Jemima Khan. But they divorced several years ago and he has since become much more conservative and religious.

Mr Khan has described himself as a liberal in various TV interviews, but he has also made clear that he is a practising Muslim. His party was not available for comment.

Mr Ahsan said the Taliban considers anyone who participates in elections, even Islamist parties, as infidels and will target them. "The election process is part of a secular system," he said. "We want an Islamic system and will create hurdles to secularism."