Bloomberg News

U.S. Condemns Killing of Pakistan Reporter on Army-Militant Ties

June 01, 2011

June 1 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the killing of a Pakistani journalist who a human rights group said had reported threats from intelligence officers over his coverage of alleged links between the military and Islamic militants.

“The United States strongly condemns the abduction and killing of reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad,” Clinton said in a statement issued by her office. “His work reporting on terrorism and intelligence issues in Pakistan brought to light the troubles extremism poses to Pakistan’s stability.”

Shahzad, a correspondent for the Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI) and Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, disappeared May 29 after reporting that last week’s guerrilla attack on a Pakistani naval base was retaliation for alleged Navy arrests of officers suspected of involvement with al-Qaeda. Three calls to Pakistan’s military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, were unanswered yesterday.

“Shahzad received repeated threats from ISI or other Pakistani intelligence agencies” following earlier stories about military links to extremist groups, said Ali Dayan Hasan, a Pakistan-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York. ISI is the abbreviation for the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

Disappeared in Islamabad

Shahzad disappeared in the capital, Islamabad, while driving a few kilometers from his home to the studios of Dunya Television for a program on which he was to discuss alleged links between Pakistan’s armed forces and extremist groups, said Nasim Zehra, the current-affairs director at the channel.

His body was found outside Jhelum, a city 120 kilometers (75 miles) southeast of Islamabad, Dunya and other Pakistani news channels reported. The body was retrieved from a canal about 10 kilometers from where his car was found, Asia Times reported.

An initial examination of the body showed possible signs of torture, the Associated Press reported, citing a police official. AKI cited an unnamed doctor who conducted an autopsy as saying that Shahzad appeared to have been beaten to death. He was 40 years old, and is survived by his wife, two sons aged 14 and seven, and a daughter aged 12, according to the websites of AKI and Asia Times.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has ordered a probe into the killing, GEO channel reported. Clinton said the U.S. supports the investigation.

‘Most Dangerous Country’

Pakistan is “the world’s most dangerous country for journalists” the Paris-based press-monitoring group Reporters Without Borders said last month, citing 14 killings of journalists within 13 months. The group ranked Pakistan 151st out of 178 countries it rated for the overall degree of press freedoms.

The Pakistani military’s three decades of covert aid to Islamic militant groups has raised tensions this year with the U.S., notably since the American commando raid that killed al- Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in an army-dominated town 50 kilometers from the capital. The White House withheld all information from Pakistan on the raid because it feared that some Pakistani officials would tip him off.

Shahzad specialized in reporting on intelligence and security issues, and this month published a book on the recent evolution of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He reported to Human Rights Watch that ISI summoned him to a meeting in October after he published a story saying the agency had released the number- two Taliban leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, after arresting him last year, Hasan said in a phone interview.

Shahzad “told me the ISI officers demanded to know the source of his story and when he refused, the meeting ended with what constituted a threat,” Hasan said.

“In the months since then, he told me that he still was receiving threatening phone calls and was being followed,” Hasan said. “He felt he was in danger.”

--Editors: Terry Atlas, Mark Williams

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rupert in New Delhi at jrupert3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg in Hong Kong at phirschberg@bloomberg.net.


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