Pakistani who exposed al Qaeda cell found slain in car
A Pakistani journalist who wrote two weeks ago about the suspected infiltration of Pakistan’s navy by al Qaeda terrorists was found dead May 31, two days after he went missing in Islamabad.
Syed Saleem Shahzad’s body was found almost 100 miles north of the Pakistani capital. His face had been battered, and he had a gunshot wound in his stomach, according to sources.
Mr. Shahzad was Pakistan bureau chief of Hong Kongbased Asia Times Online and author of “Inside al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11.”
He disappeared on May 29, two days after he wrote an article claiming that al Qaeda had attacked a naval base in Karachi, Pakistan, on May 22 in retaliation for the arrest of naval officials suspected of links with the terrorist group.
He reported that al Qaeda assaulted the base after the collapse of its talks with the navy over the release of the arrested officers.
Earlier in May, Mr. Shahzad revealed that naval intelligence had traced an al Qaeda cell operating inside bases in Karachi.
“It was clear the militants were receiving good inside information, as they always knew where the suspects were being detained, indicating sizeable al Qaeda infiltration within the navy’s ranks,” he wrote.
In the attack on Naval Station Mehran, Pakistani security forces fought in a 17-hour standoff with the militants, who destroyed one of the base’s P-3C Orion anti-submarine and maritime-surveillance aircraft and damaged another. The United States had supplied the aircraft, worth $36 million each, to boost Pakistan’s capacity in the war against terrorists.
Kamran Malik, a former navy commando, and his brother, Zaman Malik, were arrested on May 27 in a sweep by Pakistani intelligence agents in connection with the attack.
Mr. Shahzad had reported getting several warnings from Pakistani security agencies in connection with his reporting, according to two sources who spoke with The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity.
Last October, he was summoned by senior Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency officials, who reportedly threatened him and demanded he reveal his sources.
Mr. Shahzad’s colleagues said he was last seen around 6 p.m. on May 29 when he left his home in Islamabad for an interview with a Pakistani television station.
After Mr. Shahzad went miss- ing, his wife contacted Ali Dayan Hasan, a Pakistan-based senior researcher with Human Rights Watch.
Mr. Hasan said Mr. Shahzad had earlier told Human Rights Watch he was afraid the ISI would kill him.
“The other day he visited our office and informed us that ISI had threatened him. He told us that if anything happened to him, we should inform the media about the situation and threats,” Mr. Hasan said.
Human Rights Watch said those threats should be taken seriously in any investigation of Mr. Shahzad’s death.
Pakistani police on May 31 discovered his car parked next to a canal in the town of Jhelum Sarai Alamgir. His body and press identification card were found in his auto.
Jean-Francois Julliard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, said he was stunned by the news.
“Shahzad was an experienced journalist who covered very sensitive subjects, and it is highly likely that his reporting upset people within the government or armed forces,” he said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.
Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad had told Human Rights Watch that he was afraid he would be killed for his reporting.