No one claimed responsibility for the killing of Khankhel,
who died in the first violation of a truce called two days earlier between the
government and local militant groups, according to local and international news
reports. Khankhel was targeted while covering a peace march led by Muslim
cleric Sufi Muhammad, father-in-law of local Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah,
the reports said. Muhammad was seeking to recruit his son-in-law to join a
cease-fire agreement he had negotiated with the government.
Geo Managing Director Azhar Abbas told CPJ that Khankhel had
become separated from the rest of his four-person reporting team in a
militant-controlled area near the town of Matta. He suffered multiple gunshot
wounds to the torso and back of the head, Abbas said. A BBC report citing
Khankhel’s brother said the journalist had been abducted at gunpoint from the
peace march, and that his hands and feet were bound when his body was
Khankhel had told supervisors that the army was retaliating
against him for his aggressive coverage of the military offensive in Swat. He
said he was being threatened, denied access, and barred from news conferences.
Hamid Mir, his supervisor at the time, told CPJ that Khankhel called him on the
day of the murder to say that he feared for his life and believed the
Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate intended to kill him. Mir said Khankel
was killed just hours later.