Pakistani Taliban Wednesday said they have removed a minister from their "hit list" after he offered $100,000 for the death of a filmmaker who produced an anti-Islam movie.
Railways minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour sparked international condemnation when he offered the blood money and urged the Taliban and al Qaeda to carry out what he called the "noble deed".
"We have totally forgiven him and removed his name from our hit list," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP in a phone call from an unknown location.
Ehsan said that Taliban shoora, a top consultative body, had met on Tuesday and "praised Bilour for his sacrifice for the cause of Islam".
"The shoora paid rich tributes to Bilour and endorsed his bounty announcement," he said.
The Pakistan government and Bilour's own party have distanced themselves from the reward for the killing of the person behind the crudely-made Innocence of Muslims, which has sparked violent protests across the Islamic world.
But Bilour insisted public opinion was behind him in Pakistan, which has seen widespread protests against the film including nationwide rallies on Friday that ended in bloodshed and looting, with 21 people killed.
"I expressed my personal view and faith. I stand by my declaration," the 72-year-old Bilour told AFP on Tuesday.
"My faith is non-violent, but I cannot forgive and tolerate (this insult)," he said.
He said a businessman from the eastern city of Lahore had offered to put up a further $400,000 for the reward and said that freedom of speech should not be used as an excuse to insult Islam.
"Killing is not a good way, but right now it is the only way, because no action has been taken from Western countries (against the filmmaker)," he said.
Washington condemned Bilour's reward offer as "inflammatory and inappropriate", while the EU said it deplored it.
Bilour, regarded as one of the most influential politicians in Pakistan's deeply religious northwest, where anti-Western feelings run deep, said he was surprised by the outrage.