Pakistani journalist’s family massacred in apparent retribution for his work

New York, April 3, 2007—Foreign militants killed the brother, father, uncle, and cousin of Urdu-language Inkishaf reporter Din Muhammed at his home in South Waziristan in apparent retribution for his work, colleagues told the Committee to Protect Journalists. Three other family members were also abducted. It is not clear whether Muhammed was among them.

“We are sickened by this massacre,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on authorities to immediately investigate these brutal murders and to do all they can to locate our colleague Din Muhammed.”

The newspaper journalist’s 15-year-old brother Muhammed Islam, father Muhammed Amir, and a cousin were killed in a gunfight at the journalist’s house on Sunday, according to local and international news reports. The suspected foreign militants also abducted three family members, and publicly executed an uncle of the journalist. The fate of the other three is not known.

Three of the militants were also killed when the family members returned fire.

Din Muhammed had accompanied a group of visiting journalists to the town of Wana on March 25 to meet with local tribal militant commanders. Few journalists from outside the area have dared to travel to Wana to report on a fresh conflict between local Waziri tribesmen and Uzbek militants with suspected links to al-Qaeda, said Peshawar-based journalists.

“We were advised not to go to Wana. It is the most dangerous place,” said Mushtaq Yusufzai, a reporter for the English-language daily The News and a cameraman for NBC News, who was in the group. “Muhammed assured us that we would be safe. But we were afraid that he would feel the consequences for doing his job.”

The group spoke with local commanders including Haji Nazeer, who is leading the drive against suspected foreign militants who took refuge in the tribal regions of Pakistan after they were ousted from Afghanistan in 2001. Pakistani government officials have publicly stated their support for recent efforts by local tribesmen to oust foreign militants, but have said that Pakistani security forces are not involved in the fighting.