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Afghan journalist gunned down in Pakistan's Khyber Pass

Journalist "had too much information" on Taliban militants and intelligence agencies, Peshawar Press Club president tells IPI

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 24 August - An Afghan journalist known for his critical reporting on the Taliban was gunned down on Monday in Pakistan's Khyber Pass, near the town of Jamrud in the Khyber tribal district.

Janullah Hashimzada, bureau chief in Peshawar, Pakistan, for Afghanistan's Shamshad Television, was traveling from the Afghan border town of Torkham to Peshawar in a minibus when the vehicle was intercepted by masked assailants, reportedly in a Toyota Corolla. They forced the minibus to a stop and fired at Hashamzada with assault rifles. The journalist was reportedly shot at least 6 times. Another employee of Shamshad Television, named by news reports as Ali Khan, was seriously injured in the attack.

The journalists were immediately taken to the Civil Hospital in Jamrud, where doctors declared Hashimzada dead on arrival. The other injured journalist is now in the Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar.

No one has claimed responsibility for the killing so far.

"This was purely a targeted killing," Shamim Shahid, president of the Peshawar Press Club, told IPI. "(Janullah Hashimzada) was very critical of the Taliban, and some of his reporting was unacceptable both to the Pakistani and Afghan governments and intelligence agencies.

"He had too much information regarding the militants, the Taliban and the intelligence agencies."

Hashimzada, who also contributed to the Associated Press, had reportedly told journalists in Peshawar that he had been receiving threatening phone calls, and was being followed.

"Hashimzada was murdered in cold blood because he dared to exercise the profession of journalist, and knew too much," said IPI Director David Dadge. "His death underscores the perils of reporting from such a dangerous part of the world for journalists. The Pakistani government must bring to justice the perpetrators of this murder so that the killers of journalists understand that they cannot operate with impunity."

The killing of Hashimzada again highlights the violence against journalists in Pakistan, where militant Islamists and tribal factions are engaged in a violent standoff with the state.

On 17 August, Aaj TV correspondent Sadiq Bacha Khan was gunned down in broad daylight on his way to work in Mardan, a town in the restive Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan. Khan was a former president of the Mardan Press Club.

According to IPI's Death Watch, in the last two years alone 11 journalists have been killed in Pakistan. Six of the deaths occurred in the highly restive northwestern part of the country. This year, on 4 January, Muhammad Imran, 20, a trainee cameraman with Express TV, and Saleem Tahir Awan, 45, a freelance reporter with the local dailies Eitedal and Apna Akhbar, were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the Government Polytechnic College in Dera Ismail Khan in the Northwest Frontier Province. And on 18 February, Musa Khankhel, a reporter for Geo TV and the English-language newspaper The News, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen while on assignment covering a peace march led by Muslim cleric Sufi Muhammad in the Swat valley.
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