Gunmen kill Pakistani journalist who reported on Taliban

New York, January 17, 2012–Unidentified gunmen killed broadcast journalist Mukarram Khan Aatif in a mosque north of Peshawar today, according to news reports. Aatif was a correspondent for private TV station Dunya News and also worked for Deewa Radio, a Pashto-language channel of the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Voice of America, news reports said.

The journalist was praying in a mosque near his home this evening when two gunmen entered the mosque, shot him several times, and fled on motorcycles, police told reporters. Aatif was struck in the head and died of his injuries at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, news reports said. An imam at the mosque was also injured in the attack, according to news reports.

Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan called The Associated Press and said the Pakistani group took responsibility for the killing, the AP reported. Ihsan said Aatif had been warned “a number of times to stop anti-Taliban reporting, but he didn’t do so. He finally met his fate.”

Aatif had recently relocated with his family from the Mohmand tribal region after receiving threats from militants, the journalist’s colleagues told reporters. Several months ago, in response to the threats, the journalist moved to Shabqadar, a town roughly 15 miles north of Peshawar, news reports said.

“We mourn the death of our colleague Mukarram Khan Aatif, who despite fleeing his hometown could find no safe sanctuary in Pakistan’s lawless landscape for journalists,” said CPJ Asia coordinator Bob Dietz. “Until Pakistani authorities take effective steps to investigate the murders of journalists and bring those responsible to justice, journalists must band together and plan for their common defense.”

For the past two years, Pakistan has been the deadliest country in the world for journalists, according to CPJ research. At least seven journalists were killed in direct relation to their work in 2011. Five of them were in targeted killings.