New York, November 14, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the border area of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the most recent incident, two journalists were shot and wounded today in Peshawar.
The city is the capital of the North West Frontier Province, which adjoins Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and has been the scene of a number of attacks on foreigners and government officials in the last few weeks.
From his hospital bed in Peshawar, Sami Yousafzai, Newsweek magazine’s special correspondent in the region and a CBS News stringer, told reporters that he was shot three times. News reports varied about whether Asahi Shimbun Islamabad Bureau Chief Yatsukura Motoki was hit once or twice. Both men are in stable condition, and Yatsukura has been moved to a hospital in Islamabad. Their driver, whose name was not immediately available, was also shot.
“The Pakistan-Afghanistan border region has long been unstable, but its violence has been steadily spreading into other areas of Pakistan,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Journalists in the region have long warned about the lack of security and the threats they face from all sides–Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, drug lords, gun runners, criminal gangs, and even the Pakistani government. For journalists, as for all others in Peshawar, this is a situation going from bad to worse.”
News reports vary about the details of today’s shooting, with conflicting stories of a pursuit by the assailants or an ambush. The attack took place in what was only months ago considered the relatively safe Hayatabad Ring Road area on the outskirts of Peshawar, on the way to the Khyber Agency area. Yousafzai and Motoki were returning from interviewing a Taliban commander in Khyber, according to Peshawar journalists.
It is unclear whether Yousafzai and Motoki were attacked for their work as journalists or were the targets of a criminal gang seeking ransom.
Today’s attack is the third in as many days on foreigners in Peshawar. Gunmen kidnapped Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, the commercial attache of the Iranian consulate in Peshawar and killed his local guard after a shootout Thursday. American aid worker Stephen Vance was shot dead Wednesday. And on Tuesday, Khadija Abdul Qahaar, a Canadian freelance journalist and Web site publisher was kidnapped while traveling in the region’s Bannu district, according to international news reports. It is still not clear who the attackers were in any of the cases.