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02 December 2023

Pakistan journalist working for US media shot dead


Gunmen on Tuesday shot dead a Pakistani journalist working for the Voice of America's Pashto-language radio service as he prayed at a mosque in the northwest of the country, police said.

Mukarram Khan Aatif, a 43-year-old correspondent with Deewa radio, was attacked at a mosque near his home in Shabqadar town, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Peshawar.

Pakistan's umbrella Taliban faction claimed responsibility for the killing in a telephone call to AFP and threatened other journalists with the same fate.

"The two attackers came on a motorbike, fired bullets at Aatif in the mosque and escaped. He suffered bullet wounds to the head," local police officer Zahir Shah told AFP.

Another police official confirmed the incident.

"Aatif was hit in the head and rushed to a hospital in Peshawar. The prayer leader was also injured," said district police chief Nisar Khan Marwat.

Rahim Jan, a senior doctor at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, said Aatif had died of his injuries.

Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said the Islamist militia killed Aatif because he was "working for the Pakistani military and the United States".

"We warned him many times not to work for them, but he didn't accept our demand," the spokesman told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location, warning: "Many other journalists are also now a target."

At Voice of America headquarters in Washington, the news outlet condemned the killing and urged local authorities "to do more to protect journalists".

Aatif had been working for Deewa Radio since 2006, the VOA said in a statement.

"Mr. Aatif risked his life on a daily basis to provide his audience with fair and balanced news from this critical region and we mourn the loss of our colleague," said VOA Director David Ensor.

"The targeted assassination of Mr. Aatif is a tragic reminder of the dangers facing our journalists on a daily basis," added Walter Isaacson, chairman of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent agency responsible for US government non-military broadcasting.

Aatif also reported for local TV stations in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Area, a region where Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants are active, the VOA said.

According to press watchdog Reporters Without Borders, Pakistan was the deadliest country for the media in 2011 with at least eight journalists killed in connection with their work.