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 discovered.
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.