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US Releases Detained Pakistani VOA Reporter

U.S. immigration officials have released a Pakistani journalist who reports for Voice of America's Deewa Radio and whose home was destroyed by Taliban militants last month in northwestern Pakistan.

Rahman Bunairee was freed Wednesday, more than one week after he arrived in the United States and was taken into custody at Dulles International Airport outside Washington. The Department of Homeland Security has refused to comment on his case, citing privacy reasons.

Bunairee was let go after U.S. customs authorities determined during an interview with him that he was seeking protection from harm and that the purpose for which his U.S. visa had been issued was of secondary importance.

Bunairee was traveling with a valid U.S. (J-1) visa (issued by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad) allowing him to work in the United States for one year.

Bunairee's ultimate legal status and right to remain in the U.S. will be determined at a future immigration hearing. The journalist is currently reviewing his legal options with his attorney.

VOA's parent agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, issued a statement welcoming Bunairee's release.

The BBG described Bunairee as a man of extraordinary courage and dedication whose reporting in Pakistan for VOA provoked the Taliban to blow up his house and threaten his life.

The BBG said it expects Bunairee will in due course be able to undertake the assignment at VOA for which he has come to the United States. Bunairee traveled to Washington to help VOA develop its broadcasts to the troubled Afghanistan-Pakistan border region through the Radio Deewa service.

Early last month, Bunairee has said, a group of militants came to his residence in northwestern Pakistan's Buner district and announced they had orders to blow up the home.

The reporter, who was not present at the time, said the militants allowed 11 members of his family to leave. They then ransacked the house for valuables before detonating explosives and destroying the building.

No one was reported hurt in the blast, but the journalist said militants threatened to take further action if they found him.

Bunairee has suggested the attack on his home may be a consequence of his news reports saying militant gunmen were still patrolling in several villages of Buner district - contrary to Pakistani government claims that most Taliban fighters and their allies had been eliminated from the area.