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Pakistan 6 December 2005

Journalist kidnapped after challenging official account of Al Qaeda militant’s death

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about the fate of Hayatullah Khan, a reporter for the Urdu-language daily Ausaf and photographer for the European Press Photo Agency (EPA), who was kidnapped by gunmen yesterday morning in Mir Ali in the Tribal Zones of Pakistan, adjoining Afghanistan.

Calling on the local authorities to do everything possible to locate Khan as soon as possible, the organisation said it was told by family members today that they have not had any word of him since his abduction.

“Khan’s reporting had cast doubt on the official account of how a senior Al Qaeda militant was killed on 1 December and raised the sensitive issue of the US army’s participation in the fight against terrorism in Pakistan,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“His disappearance comes a day after a journalist was killed in Darra Adamkhel, in another part of the Tribal Areas, and highlights the dangers to which journalists are exposed in these regions bordering Afghanistan,” the organisation added.

Khan was heading towards Khajoori in Nord Waziristan (250 km southwest of Islamabad) to cover a student demonstration when five men armed with AK-47 assault rifles stopped his vehicle and took him away in another vehicle.

His abduction came just a few days after he contradicted Pakistani army claims that the death of Hamza Rabia, a leading Arab militant in Al Qaeda, and four other people on 1 December was the result of munitions going off accidentally in the home of a person identified as Mohammad Siddiq, who turned out to be an uncle of Khan.

On the basis of photographs he took at the scene, Khan said Rabia was killed by a US missile. Villagers said the explosion was caused by a missile fired from a plane or a drone.

A witness of Khan’s abduction said his kidnappers looked like Taliban fighters, but local sources have stressed that the Pakistani security forces had it in for him.

He was arrested in an arbitrary fashion by US forces in 2002 when he was trying to cover Al Qaeda and Taliban activity in the border region. The Pakistani military harassed him the following year after he wrote about the misuse of army vehicles in Mir Ali.

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