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Two journalists and their fixer abducted by Taliban in Tribal Areas; British TV crew target of gunfire

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of two freelance journalists - reporter Pir Zubair Shah and photographer Akhtar Soomoro - who were kidnapped on 3 July 2008 by a Taliban group in the Mohmand region of the Tribal Areas while doing a story on marble production, which the authorities plan to develop.

"The kidnapping of these two respected journalists is incomprehensible and we hope the Taliban leaders will quickly heed the calls for their release," Reporters Without Borders said. "Shah and Soomoro were not in any way involved in the ongoing conflict. They were just doing their job, which is to report on the situation in the Tribal Areas."

Shah and Soomoro were detained by Taliban militants near the village of Ziarat. A third man, Abdul Hasan, who acted as their fixer, was also reportedly abducted. Shah is from Waziristan, another part of the Tribal Areas.

A Taliban spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying they detained the journalists because they were secretly taking pictures of people and places under Taliban control. "Now our council will meet and decide what to do," the spokesman, identified as Asad, said.

These abductions came just three days after a Taliban group distributed leaflets in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, threatening to kill three local journalists - Zafar Wazir of the "Aaj" daily newspaper and AVT TV, Agence France-Presse stringer Anwar Shakir and freelancer Deen Muhammad - and accusing them of working for foreign news media.

In a separate development, a British TV crew that had permission to do a report on tribal customs came under automatic gunfire on 3 July in Mastung, a district in the southwestern province of Quetta. Four of its Pakistani employees were injured. The "Dawn" daily newspaper said the circumstances of the shooting were still unclear.

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