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Abducted Pakistani journalist tortured, killed: Official

Tuesday May 31, 2011 10:40:51 PM, IANS

Islamabad: Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, who went missing Sunday amid speculation that he had been seized by the ISI intelligence agency, was found murdered Tuesday. A doctor who conducted an autopsy said Shahzad had been tortured before being killed.

The doctor - appointed by police - said: "It is very disturbing for all of us. He was beaten to death, both his ribs were broken and marks of wounds were his left side and on the legs."

Earlier, Dawn newspaper said on its website that Shahzad's body, with tell-tale torture marks, was found in an area known as Sarai Alamgir, nearly 200 km from Islamabad.

The well-informed Shahzad was the Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times Online. He also worked for the Italian news agency AKI. He leaves behind his wife and three children - two sons aged 14 and seven and a daughter aged 12.

He wrote extensively on Islamist outfits in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as their linkages with the Pakistani establishment. His reports were widely read.

Shahzad went missing from Islamabad Sunday evening while going to the Dunya TV office to take part in a programme related to the terrorist attack May 22 on a major naval base in Karachi that left 14 people dead.

Since Sunday evening, his mobile phone was switched off.

AKI quoted "informed sources" as saying the body was found near a police checkpost -- and close to Shahzad's missing car.

"Inside the car were ID cards belonging to Shahzad and another unnamed person," AKI said.

Police also reported finding a diary in the car with many contacts listed in it.

Shahzad's brother-in-law Hamza Amer reportedly travelled to the spot and identified the body, a source told AKI.

Days before his disappearance, Shahzad authored an article for Asia Times that alleged links between some navy officials and Al Qaeda.

This article, some of his friends said, may have been linked to his abduction.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has expressed deep grief and sorrow over Shahzad's killing.

Gilani said in a statement he took "strong note" of the incident and has ordered an immediate inquiry into Shahzad's kidnapping and murder.

The prime minister assured that the culprits would be brought to justice "at every cost".

The present government, Gilani said, strongly believed in freedom of expression and considered freedom of media as an essential ingredient to strengthening democratic values and culture.

He expressed his heartfelt condolences to Shahzad's family.

Earlier Tuesday, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan voiced concern over Shahzad's disappearance and demanded that he be released unharmed.

It said that his abductors must be identified and brought to trial.

No one claimed responsibility for his abduction, but Human Rights Watch said it may have been carried out by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's main and feared intelligence agency.

Media reports also said that Shahzad's friends had reportedly received telephone calls from purported intelligence officials saying he would be released soon.

Giuseppe Marra, director of the Adnkronos Group, for which Shahzad worked as a correspondent in Islamabad since 2004, paid tributes to the Pakistani journalist.

"Today, our exceptional colleague and very dear friend Syed Saleem Shahzad concluded his marvellous and epic mission. We will never forget his phone calls and his illuminating analyses on social and cutural realities so different from our own," Marra said.

"No one will ever be able to kill our memories of an outstandingly intrepid and brave colleague," he said, adding that Shahzad was a man "who viewed journalism as a supreme cultural mission of peace".

In November 2006, Shahzad had been kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan's Helmand province where he was reporting.

He and another Pakistani journalist were held for a week on suspicion of spying, "tried" by their captors and released unharmed after they "confessed" to wrongdoing.




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