The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing of a Voice of America journalist in Pakistan Wednesday, The New York Times reported.
Mukarram Khan Aatif was shot at least three times in the head and chest during evening prayers in a mosque in Shabqafar, a small town in northwest Pakistan. Witnesses said a masked gunman escaped on a motorbike with another masked man. Aatif was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The Taliban announced their involvement in the killing soon after Aatif’s death.
“All reporters of Voice of America are our targets and should resign,” Mukurram Khurasani, an aide to the local Taliban commander, said to a reporter during a telephone call.
Voice of America is a radio news service funded by the U.S. government.
Aatif is the first reporter whose death the Taliban have openly admitted orchestrating. He was not, however, the first journalist to be killed by Taliban forces in the region.
Voice of America and other western-financed radio services in the border region are based in areas where C.I.A. drones have targeted militant hideouts. This has led the Taliban to view the news services as a potential threat to their control of the area.
“The Taliban have made it clear they will target those they deem to be ‘C.I.A. agents,’” said Iqbal Khattak, a Pakistani reporter who represents the advocacy organization Reporters Without Borders.
“The Taliban are not happy with our reporting,” Hamidullah, the Voice of America coordinator for northwest Pakistan, said to The Times. “They consider it propaganda against them, and they are constantly giving threats against our stringers.”
While personal safety in Pakistan is becoming a more pressing issue for journalists, they continue to cover the Middle Eastern country.
“[T]his is our job,” Hamidullah said. “We have to continue. I don’t see any other way.”