PESHAWAR - Armed assailants on Tuesday evening gunned down Samiullah Afridi, former lawyer of Dr Shakil Afridi , who helped US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in tracing and killing Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

According to details, unidentified gunmen opened fire at the vehicle of Samiullah Afridi in Aslam Bheri area of Mathra, a suburban locality of the provincial metropolis, when he was returning home from his office in Firdu area.

Two motorcyclists opened fire on Samiullah Afridi. He received two bullets and sustained critical injuries in the attack. Samiullah was rushed to Lady Reading Hospital. However, he succumbed to his injuries on way to the hospital.

“He was returning home when armed men opened fire on him. He died on the spot,” police official Jamal Hussain said. A hospital spokesman added that Samiullah was shot twice, in the abdomen and the neck.

The attackers managed to escape after committing the murder. Police after registering a case against unidentified assailants, have started an investigation.

Two militant groups claimed responsibility for the laywer’s death. Jundullah, a Taliban splinter group, said: “We killed him because he was defending Shakil, who is our enemy.”

A Taliban faction, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA), later said it had shot him. “Dr Shakil Afridi had spied on our respected and supreme leader Sheikh Osama to the CIA,” TTP-JA spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said.

“Samiullah Afridi had represented his case,” Ehsan said, “that’s why we decided to eliminate him when we can’t approach Dr Shakil.”

Samiullah had remained out of country for about three months after receiving life threats for pleading Shakil Afridi’s case. He had recently returned to Pakistan. Samiullah was the second member of the legal team to flee following militant threats. It wasn’t immediately clear why Samiullah was visiting Pakistan.

“I have been receiving threats from various organisations, and because of those threats I even went to Dubai some time back,” he had told Reuters TV.

“Some organisations do not want us to continue defending this case. Not only is my life in danger, my family is also in danger. I have therefore decided to quit this case.”

Samiullah Afridi, represented Dr Shakil Afridi , a physician, who helped the American CIA run a hepatitis vaccine programme in Abbottabad, to confirm Osama Bin Laden’s presence in the city by obtaining DNA samples.

Shakil Afridi was arrested at the Torkham border crossing days after the raid at Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. Following the arrest, he was sentenced to 33 years in jail for membership of militant group Laskhar-e-Islam, while Dr Afridi denied.

Later in 2014, his conviction was overturned due to ‘procedural errors’ and a retrial was ordered. Dr Shakil Afridi has since been facing murder charges relating to the death of a patient nine years ago.