Pakistani journalist is found dead

Syed Saleem Shahzad had been under security pressure. Syed Saleem Shahzad had been under security pressure. (Shahzad Family/ Associated Press)
By Nahal Toosi
Associated Press / June 1, 2011

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ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani journalist who investigated Al Qaeda’s alleged infiltration of the navy and told a rights activist he had been threatened by the country’s intelligence agencies was found dead yesterday. Police said his body showed signs of torture.

Syed Saleem Shahzad’s death underscores the dangers of reporting in Pakistan, which in 2010 was called the deadliest country for journalists. It will also increase scrutiny of Pakistan’s security agencies, already under domestic pressure since the May 2 US raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Shahzad, a correspondent for the Asia Times Online as well as Italian news agency Adnkronos International, went missing late Sunday from Islamabad.

Shahzad’s body was found about 6 miles from his car in Mandi Bahaudiin district outside the capital.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official denied that the agency had anything to do with Shahzad’s case.

“It’s absurd,’’ the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media on the record.

Shahzad, 40, dabbled in some sensitive topics, which would probably have caught the eye of Pakistan’s security establishment. The country’s military and spy networks regularly try to pressure media outlets and individual reporters.

In October, Shahzad wrote an Asia Times article that said Pakistan had freed an Afghan Taliban commander who had been arrested with much fanfare, so that he could “play a pivotal role in backchannel talks through the Pakistani army with Washington.’’

He was summoned to an office of Inter-Services Intelligence, according to an e-mail he sent to Ali Dayan Hasan, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. Intelligence officials pressured him to reveal his sources or retract the story, but he declined. top stories on Twitter

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