Pakistani reporter’s home destroyed by Taliban

New York, July 10, 2009–The home of Voice of America (VOA) correspondent Rahman Bunairee in Buner district was leveled by a bomb on Thursday in what was believed to be a retaliatory attack by the Taliban, news reports said.

Citing Bunairee’s account, the U.S. government-funded broadcaster reported that “a few dozen militants came to his home in Buner district Wednesday night and told his father that because his son was speaking against militants, they had been ordered to blow up his home.” The English-language Daily Times reported that Bunairee’s family–including two young children–then vacated the house.

“Despite the government’s claims of having secured the area, Pakistani journalists remain prime targets,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The attack on the home of Rahman Bunairee is one more indicator of the dangers these journalists–and their families–face as they continue to report from this high-conflict area.”

CPJ could not reach Bunairee by telephone or e-mail today, but news reports and accounts from VOA colleagues have filled in many details. Bunairee told colleagues that he and his family have relocated to a safe place. He said the attack may have come in retaliation for a recent report that said militants were still patrolling the streets in several villages in Buner–a district in the volatile North West Frontier Province–despite government claims that the Taliban have been largely eliminated in the area, the VOA said.

At a press conference on Wednesday, the government said that its military operations against Taliban militants were drawing to a close in Buner and the adjoining Swat Valley. It said Pakistani forces had killed about 1,600 combatants since it launched its offensive in April. A few days earlier, the government had encouraged civilians who had fled the fighting to begin returning to the area.