Page last updated at 12:05 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Anger at Swat journalist killing

By Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News, Islamabad

Protest in Islamabad
Journalists protested in Islamabad, as well as other major cities

Hundreds of journalists have protested throughout Pakistan at the killing of a reporter who was covering a deal to bring Sharia law to the Swat region.

Musa Khankhel, who worked for Geo TV, was shot in the head by unknown gunmen near the town of Matta on Wednesday.

He was reporting on a peace drive by cleric Sufi Mohammad, who signed the Sharia deal with the government.

Talks on the deal have now started between his group and the Taleban, who are led by his son-in-law.

The deal will bring Sharia law in return for an end to the Taleban insurgency.

'Black day'

Khankhel, 28, was kidnapped while covering the peace rally and his bullet-riddled body was found a few hours later.

Our government should provide full protection to journalists, who are becoming victims in the war on terror
Mohammad Riaz,
Khyber Union of Journalists

"My brother was taken away at gunpoint from the march," Issa Khan, Khankhel's brother, told reporters.

The journalist's body was found in the nearby area of Dedpani. According to witnesses, he had been shot 12 times. His hands and feet had been tied.

Khankhel was a correspondent for Geo and the News International newspaper in Swat.

He is the fourth journalist to be killed in Swat over the past 12 months.

Angry journalists held immediate demonstrations in Swat.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists called for more protests on Thursday, which it declared a "black day".

Supporters of Sufi Mohammad in Mingora, Swat
Hundreds gathered to back Sufi Mohammad in Mingora in Swat

It said in a statement: "A journalist has become the first victim after the peace deal in Swat, which is most alarming."

It called on the government to investigate the murder and punish those involved.

President Asif Ali Zardari has vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

A Taleban spokesman said it was "the work of those forces who want to sabotage peace efforts".

Hundreds of journalists held demonstrations in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi.

In Islamabad, demonstrators chanted anti-government slogans and said Khankhel's sacrifice would not go in vain.

In Lahore, reporters and photographers marched to the provincial legislature and called for more protection to be given to journalists.

Undisclosed location

Meanwhile, talks have started between Sufi Mohammad's organisation, the TNSM, and the Taleban in Swat.

A senior government official told the BBC that the talks were going on but that no joint ground had yet been reached.

According to the official, a 10-member TNSM delegation was currently in dialogue with the Taleban at an undisclosed location.

The delegation is led by senior TNSM leader, Ameer Izzat Khan.

Sufi Mohammad's son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah is the current leader of the Taleban in Swat.

The Taleban have fought a violent campaign to bring their own system of government to Swat, a campaign that has included beheadings and the destruction of hundreds of schools.

Tens of thousands of people have fled the former tourist haven.

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