VOA reporter killed in Pakistan

Jan. 17, 2012 at 10:21 PM
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PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Pakistani reporter Mukarram Khan Aatif, who worked for the Voice of America, was shot and killed in a mosque in northwest Pakistan, VOA reported.

The report said the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for Aatif's assassination Tuesday in Shabqadar, a small town about 25 miles from Peshawar, capital of the violence-ravaged Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The report, quoting police and witnesses, said Aatif, who was in his 40s, was shot in the head and chest by two people who arrived at the mosque where the journalist was offering his evening prayers. The assassins escaped.

Aatif, who was from a tribal agency near the border with Afghanistan, was taken in critical condition to a nearby hospital, where he died of his injuries, VOA reported.

Aatif, who had been receiving threats from the militants, had moved Shabqadar along with his family, friends and relatives said.

Imtiaz Alam, general secretary of the regional media watchdog South Asia Free Media Association, called for a government investigation of the incident.

"And I expect more killings in Pakistan, and journalists are now leaving country under threat from all kinds of actors, especially the extremists," he was quoted as saying.

Pakistani Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan, who promised the government would conduct a "thorough and transparent" investigation, called the killing "a very sad incident and I condemn it from the core of my heart."

Aatif had worked for the VOA's Pashto language service. He also had been reporting for local TV channels.

Reporters Without Borders said at least 10 reporters were killed in Pakistan in 2011, making it the deadliest nation in the world for journalists.

Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the killing and ordered authorities to bring the killers to justice, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Police official Janzada Khan told The Express Tribune newspaper Aatif had been constructing the mosque, where he was shot, at his own expense. The Imam of the mosque was injured in the shooting and was treated at a hospital.

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