Japanese, Afghan journalists shot, wounded in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - A Japanese journalist and an Afghan colleague were shot and wounded on Friday in Peshawar, in the latest of a series of attacks on foreigners in the northwest Pakistani city, police said.

The capital of North West Frontier Province has borne the brunt of attacks in cities by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban, and operating out of tribal lands bordering Afghanistan.

The shooting comes a day after an Iranian diplomat was kidnapped and his police bodyguard shot dead in the city, while an American aid worker was gunned down on Wednesday.

The wounded Afghan journalist, Sami Yousafzai, recounted how he and a journalist from Japan’s Asahi newspaper were attacked by three gunmen on foot on the boundary between the Peshawar neighbourhood of Hayatabad and the Khyber tribal region.

“They stopped our car and put a gun to my head. I pushed it away and they opened fire,” said Yousafzai as he lay in a hospital bed with two wounds to his hands, one in the shoulder.

The Japanese journalist was hit in the leg, while the driver was knocked unconscious.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry named the journalist as Motoki Yotsukura, Asahi’s Islamabad bureau chief. A ministry official said he was shot in the right knee.

“We don’t know how serious the injury is, but we understand his life is not in danger.”

The gunmen, who had Afghan accents, according to Yousafzai, also chased a car following behind, which was carrying a Pakistani journalist working for Asahi.

Yousafzai is a well known among journalists in Peshawar and often works with international media.

After the attack the assailants fled in the direction of the Khyber tribal region.

Criminal gangs using religion as a cover, drug-runners and smugglers are also active in the area.

Spiralling violence has raised fears that nuclear-armed Pakistan could slide into chaos unless the 7-month-old civilian government, also faced with a potentially crippling economic crisis, and the army can throttle the militant threat.

Pakistan’s support is seen as vital to the West’s efforts to defeat al Qaeda globally and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Peshawar is the last city on the road to the Khyber Pass, the main land route to Afghanistan. Militants seized 13 trucks laden with supplies for Western forces on the road on Monday.