The Taliban in Pakistan have claimed responsibility for the murder of Voice of America journalist Mukarram Khan Aatif, 45, in Peshewar on Wednesday (January 18).
The shooting death occurred when a masked gunman walked up to Aatif in a mosque during evening prayers in Shabqadar, and opened fire on the journalist as he prayed. Mr. Aatif was hot by three rounds in the chest and head and was pronounced dead at Peshewar Hospital. The assailant escaped on a motorbike driven by a second masked man.
Subsequently, a Taliban commander in Mohmand said his group was responsible for the killing saying, “All reporters of Voice of America are our targets and should resign; otherwise we will kill them,” he told a local journalist in a telephone interview.
COMMENT: Aatif worked for Deewa Radio, a Voice of America service that was set up in 2006 to broadcast in Pashto to the people of Pakistan’s seven tribal areas along the Afghan border. Deewa has an annual budget of $1 million and employs about 25 local reporters; it says it reaches about 10% of the people in the tribal areas, who number at least four million.
With US-Pakistani relations deteriorating by the day, it is no surprise that extremists have decided to target Voice of America. Pakistan is becoming a country where anyone who supports or works with elements of the US should consider themselves at risk. Normally, Pakistani targets are assassinated while foreigners are kidnapped.