Police say gunman kills 2 Pakistani intelligence officers

This is a locator map for Pakistan with its capital, Islamabad, and the Kashmir region. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) — A gunman shot and killed two intelligence officers in an attack outside a roadside restaurant in eastern Pakistan on Tuesday before fleeing, police and security officials said.

Murtaza Bhatti, a senior police officer in the Punjab province district of Khanewal, said the attack happened when the two officers were parking their vehicle.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack on the officers, who were known for arresting Pakistani Taliban and other militants. They were also known for their expertise in investigating and solving complicated cases, including gun and bomb attacks in the country.

Officials said one of the slain officers was the director of the provincial counter-terrorism department, which has played a key role in arresting Pakistani Taliban. The militant group has stepped up attacks on security forces in recent months after unilaterally ending a monthslong cease-fire with the Pakistan government in November.

The Pakistani Taliban are separate but allied with the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops withdrew after 20 years of war.

Also on Tuesday, the Afghan Taliban's chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that Afghanistan wants good relations with all its neighboring countries, including Pakistan. But he also asked Islamabad to refrain from making provocative statements that can lead to mistrust.

His comments came a day after Pakistan's top political and military leadership in an apparent reference to Afghanistan said that no nation will be allowed to shelter militants who stage attacks against the country.

Also on Monday, Pakistan's Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif said a recent “wave of terrorist attacks" in Pakistan was coming from Pakistani Taliban who are hiding in Afghanistan. He asked Afghanistan's Taliban rulers to stop such elements from using their soil for attacks in Pakistan.

On Tuesday, Mujahid pushed back against that statement.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan values peace and stability in its country, it wants peace and stability for the whole region and continues its efforts in this way," he said. He said the “Islamic Emirate is trying its best to ensure that Afghanistan's territory is not used against Pakistan or any other country."

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Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this story from Islamabad.