Taliban claim killing of Pakistani journalist

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) - A gunman on a motorbike shot dead a Pakistani journalist in the country’s restive northwest on Tuesday and hours later the Taliban claimed the killing, bringing to 71 the number of journalists and media workers killed in Pakistan since 2002.

Zaman Mehsud, 38, was a journalist working for the Pakistani Urdu newspaper Daily Umet and SANA news agency, and also worked for the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Taliban commander Qari Saif Ullah Saif told Reuters: “We killed him because he was writing against us ... we have some other journalists on our hit list in the region, soon we will target them.”

The journalist’s brother Muhammed Aslam wept as he collected the body. “He left five children and a widow,” he said.

The shooting occurred near the northern town of Tank, said police officer Mir Salam. Mehsud was killed with four bullets to the chest, doctors said.

“Our initial information is that Zaman was killed by a man who was riding on a bike near an army check post,” Salam said.

At least 67 journalists and media workers were killed between January 2002 and 2014, according to press freedom group Reporters Without Borders. Including Mehsud, another four have been killed this year.

All but one were Pakistanis. The killers have been convicted in only two cases -- that of American Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and that of Geo reporter Wali Babar.

Six witnesses, a lawyer and two policemen linked to Babar’s case were murdered and three prosecutors had to flee the country.

Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Janet Lawrence