Concern as Pakistan kidnapping case continues

New York, March 27, 2009–The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned about the safety of Khadija Abdul Qahaar, publisher of the Web site Jihad Unspun, who has been held by kidnappers in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas for more than four months.

Qahaar, a Canadian who changed her name from Beverly Giesbrecht when she converted to Islam in 2002, disappeared on November 11, 2008, while traveling in the Bannu district, along the border with Afghanistan, according to Pakistani and international media reports. She was traveling with two Pakistani assistants, Salman Khan and Zar Muhammad, who are also believed to be held, according to some news reports and a CPJ source.

At least three videos have been released by her kidnappers, the most recent of which was sent to the press club in the nearby city of Miran Shah on March 18. On the tape, Qahaar said her captors would “probably” kill her by the end of the month if their demand for 2 million rupees ($25,000) was not met.

“We’re gravely concerned about Khadija Abdul Qahaar’s safety, particularly because she is an independent journalist who lacks the support of a large media organization,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs is “continuing to pursue all appropriate channels” to obtain the journalist’s release, spokeswoman Lisa Monette said today. She declined further comment, saying the department did not want to compromise those efforts.

Qahaar’s Web site, Jihad Unspun, says it was launched to provide independent news coverage of the fighting in Pakistan’s tribal areas and neighboring Afghanistan. The site says it seeks to provide a “clearer view of the U.S. war on ‘terrorism.'” A note posted at the top of Qahaar’s home page says the site “will resume operation upon her release.”