About 500 people protested yesterday in northwestern Pakistan against the slaying of a journalist whose body was found six months after he vanished following the killing of an al-Qaeda operative in a US missile strike.
Hayatullah Khan's body was found on Friday near Mir Ali, a town in the North Waziristan tribal region where he was abducted on Dec. 5 and was never heard from again.
No one has claimed responsibility for abducting or killing Khan but his relatives have accused the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI, Pakistan's prime, military-run spy agency.
Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao on Saturday denied the charge, called Khan's killing a "dastardly act" and promised to take stern action against those responsible for it.
Yesterday, about 20 journalists and hundreds of their supporters rallied in Khar, the main town in the Bajur tribal region, chanting "Oppressors! give answer for [Khan's] blood," and "Give protection to journalists in the tribal region."
They also demanded that government track down Khan's killers.
"The government had failed to reach the real culprits in Khan's abduction and killing," said Maulana Mohammed Sadiq, an opposition lawmaker from Bajur who attended the rally.
"We will continue to raise this issue in Parliament until Khan's killers are arrested," he said.
On Saturday about 100 journalists, joined by several other opposition lawmakers, chanting "Killer, killer, government killer," condemned Khan's killing in the capital Islamabad.
Khan's brother, Ahsan Ullah, who blamed ISI for his killing without offering any evidence, said on Saturday that he heard of his brother's killing from an ISI officer.
"I was informed by an ISI officer about the death of my brother, and I told him that you have done it," he told reporters after Khan's funeral in Mir Ali, which was attended by nearly 5,000 people.
Another brother, Hasneen Ullah, told reporters that Khan "sacrificed his life for exposing the truth. He was a bold journalist."
Ullah said he was on his way to college with his brother when five armed men intercepted their vehicle and abducted Khan. He said he didn't know who the kidnappers were or what their motive was.
Khan, in his mid 30s, had been handcuffed and shot in the back, local officials said.
Khan went missing days after photographing shrapnel from a Hellfire missile allegedly fired by an unmanned US warplane to target wanted al-Qaeda figure Hamza Rabia in Mir Ali.
Arab, Central Asian and Afghan militants -- suspected of links with al-Qaeda and local tribal supporters of the Taliban militia, are believed to operate in the north Waziristan region.
The widely published photograph by Khan contradicted a claim by Pakistan's government that Rabia had died while making bombs in his hideout in Mir Ali.
Khan worked for Pakistan's Urdu-language daily Ausaf and the European Pressphoto Agency.
In January, a Pakistani government official said Islamic militants may have abducted Khan.