Pakistani authorities and eyewitnesses say that unknown gunmen have shot dead a Pakistan-based Afghan journalist and wounded his colleague in a northwestern border region. The attack comes as police in an eastern town claims to have detained six suspected Taliban extremists planning to launch major terrorist attacks on foreigners, politicians and on worship places for minority Shiite Muslims.
Local authorities say that an Afghan journalist, Janullah Hashimzada, was gunned down as he was traveling in a mini-bus through Khyber Pass, a main road-link between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Witnesses say that armed men riding a car intercepted the bus and forced it to stop in the Pakistani border town of Jamrud. The attackers then went inside the passenger vehicle, they say, and shot the journalist dead while severely wounding his colleague, Ali Khan. No one has claimed responsibility for the assassination.
The slain Afghan reporter Hashimzada was based in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar and was working for a private Afghan television station, Shamshad TV. He was known as a vocal critic of Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. Relatives say he was returning to resume his duties after spending the weekend with his family in the border Afghan province of Ningarhar.
Attacks on Pakistan journalists increasing
Pakistan's Federal Union of Journalists condemned the murder of the Afghan journalist, demanding immediate arrest of the killers and ensuring protection of journalists in the country. The group's Secretary General Shamsul Islam Naz says that the northwestern Pakistani province called the NWFP and its neighboring areas have become extremely dangerous for reporters.
"This is a very tragic incident. For the first seven [or eight] months of this year this is the 9th journalist who has been killed in N.W.F.P [North West Frontier Province of Pakistan], and law enforcing agencies miserably failed to protect the lives of journalists. Such incidents have become order of the day in N.W.F.P," he said.
Attacks on journalists have increased in Pakistan where security forces and Taliban extremists are engaged in a bloody fight in the northwestern province called NWFP and in areas bordering Afghanistan.
Media watchdog groups estimate that more than 40 journalists have been killed since Pakistan joined the U.S-led coalition against Taliban and the al-Qaida network. Both security agencies and militants are blamed for the violence as part of efforts to influence the media coverage.
Meanwhile, police in the eastern city of Sargodha say they have arrested six suspected Taliban militants and seized suicide vests as well as bomb-making material.
District police Chief Usman Anwar tells VOA the men were planning terrorist attacks on politicians, foreigners and worship places for the country's minority Shiite community. He says the arrests were made in a raid on a local bus station where the suspects had gathered to depart for other cities.
"We checked bags of three of them so we found explosives, detonators and other such things, which were to be used in terrorism. So we got hold of all six of them and we have got the head of the group," he said.
The police officer identified the group leader as Zaid Mustafa, saying he was recruiting potential suicide bombers and was providing logistics, explosives and other support for terrorist attacks across the country.
The arrests came a day after police in the southern port city of Karachi seized seven members of an outlawed Sunni militant group (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) believed to have links with al-Qaida operatives based in Pakistan's volatile tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Nearly three-thousand Pakistanis, including security forces, have died in suicide and other terrorist attacks since early 2008.