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Gunmen release kidnapped Pakistani journalist

world Updated: Oct 13, 2011 13:25 IST

AFP
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Gunmen in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt released a journalist they had held hostage for two months, a local official and residents said on Thursday.

Masked and carrying guns, the kidnappers abducted Rehmatullah Darpakhel on August 11, in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, a known hub of Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants such as the Haqqani network.

"Rehmatullah Darpakhel has been freed and has returned home. He was freed unconditionally," Mohammad Amin, a government official in Miranshah, said.

His release was brokered by tribal elders and on Wednesday Darpakhel was welcomed home by hundreds of tribesmen firing into air, a local tradition in times of celebration, residents said.

In August, the UN human rights commissioner urged Pakistan to investigate a spate of killings and disappearances of journalists, including that of Darpakhel.

According to press watchdog Reporters Without Borders, Pakistan has been the world's deadliest country for the media in 2011 with at least eight journalists killed in connection with their work.

Faisal Qureshi, 28, a journalist working for a London-based online news site was murdered last week in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore. Reporter Saleem Shahzad was found dead on May 31 after disappearing in Islamabad.

The US military's then top officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, said Islamabad may have sanctioned his killing.

Shahzad told Human Rights Watch he had been threatened by intelligence agents. He wrote about links between rogue navy officials and al Qaeda shortly after US troops killed Osama bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad.

Darpakhel comes from the same village, Dandey Darpakhel, where local officials said a US drone strike on Thursday killed a logistics commander in the Haqqani network and three other militants.

Last month, Mullen called the Haqqani network a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency and accused Pakistan of supporting attacks on US targets in Afghanistan.