Taliban gunmen shoot dead Pakistan minister

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Taliban gunmen shoot dead Pakistan minister

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The Taliban said on Wednesday they carried out the fatal shooting of Pakistan’s minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti.

The militant group said they killed Bhatti because he spoke out against a law that carries the death penalty for people who criticise Islam.

Shahbaz Bhatti was travelling without security in a car which was attacked by gunmen on Wednesday near a market in Islamabad.

Bhatti was the only Christian member of the Pakistani cabinet. He is the second top official this year to be murdered for questioning the law.

The legislation has been in the spotlight since November when a Christian mother of four was sentenced to death.

Al Qaeda-linked Taliban militants had threatened to kill Bhatti because of his attempts to change the law. A Taliban spokesman said they described him as a blasphemer.

Pakistan’s Christians, who make up around two percent of the population, say the law offers them no protection.

But there is widespread support for the law from Islamist groups. When the governor of Punjab was murdered for the same reasons in January, the killing was widely praised by hardline groups like Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest religious group in Pakistan.