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Pakistan 25 July 2005

Second bomb attack against journalist Khursheed Ahmed

Journalist Khursheed Ahmed, of the Urdu-language national daily Khabrain in Gilgit, in the Northern Areas, was the target on 24 July of a second bomb attack within a few months. Three home-made bombs were thrown at his house, causing damage but no injuries.

A police officer confirmed to Reporters Without Borders that a suspect had been arrested as he tried to flee the scene.

The press freedom organisation condemned the attack and regretted that the government has not been able to provide protection to the journalist and his family after the first very similar attack against his home in March. Reporters Without Borders also called for an investigation into the attack, particularly into the fact that it exactly coincided with a brief power cut.

The week before the 24 July attack, Ahmed attended a meeting on the fight against terrorism, attended by a large number of officials. At the meeting he commented that although President Pervez Musharraf was fighting terrorism, this was not so with all local authorities who kept up a dialogue with armed groups. His comments provoked fury among some of the other participants.

"My presence at this conference gave the Islamists a pretext and they responded in their usual idiom," he said. "I believe that the assailants could have killed me outside my house. They just wanted to frighten me."


A second journalist assaulted in the Northern Areas

An army officer brutally beat Nisar Abbas of privately-owned Geo TV and the daily Jang in Skardu, Northern Areas on 20 March. The journalist confirmed to Reporters Without Borders that he was physically assaulted during a military operation to halt a ceremony organised by a care organisation. The soldier beat Abbas with the butt of his rifle, leaving him with bad bruising particularly on his shoulders. Under Article 144 of the criminal code, the authorities have banned all gatherings of more than five people in the Northern Areas, scene of tensions between Sunnis and Shiites.

Reporters Without Borders called for an investigation into the attack and for those responsible to be disciplined.


Home-made bomb thrown at home of leading journalist in Gilgit

Reporters Without Borders today condemned an attack with a home-made bomb on the home of leading local journalist Khurshid Ahmed, the correspondent of the national daily Khabrain, on 3 March in Gilgit, capital of the Northern Areas, in Pakistan’s far north.

Thrown at the house in the evening, the bomb caused no injuries. But Ahmed told Reporters Without Borders his family was "distraught." No one has claimed the attack and the police have made no arrests, although the police station is just 20 metres from Ahmed’s home.

"It is very alarming that criminals can endanger the lives of a journalist and his family without being caught," the press freedom organization said, calling on the local authorities to carry out an investigation and shed light on the case.

Ahmed, who is president of the Gilgit Press Club, told Reporters Without Borders the bomb could have been an attempt to intimidate local journalists in response to their recent decision not to report hate messages by local religious extremists. The journalists refused to let their newspapers serve as mouthpieces for Shiite and Sunni leaders in their sectarian feuding.

Shocked by the incident, Gilgit journalists organized a sit-in outside the office of the federal government’s representative in the city. They have given the authorities a week to identify the perpetrators. Some weekly newspapers have temporarily suspended publication.

Pakistan is currently in the grip of religious tension, especially since the 8 January murder of Shiite leader Agha Ziauddin in the north. Members of the Imamia Students Organization, a religious group that accused the press of failing to give adequate coverage to this murder, attacked the press club in the eastern city of Lahore on 14 January, injuring 10 journalists. Read the press release

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