By Jennifer Epstein for Politico
In another possible blow to U.S.-Pakistan relations after the killing of Osama bin Laden, Obama administration officials believe that the country’s intelligence service ordered the “barbaric and unacceptable” killing of a journalist who had written about ties between the country’s military and Al Qaeda militants, according to a report Tuesday.
Intelligence surrounding the late May killing of Pakistani reporter Saleem Shahzad, 40, suggests that senior officials at Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence ordered the murder to silence his criticism, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing two senior US administration officials.
American officials consider the intelligence to be “reliable and conclusive,” the Times said, with one official describing the actions of the spy agency, known as the ISI, as “barbaric and unacceptable.” Shahzad suffered 17 lacerated wounds, a ruptured liver and two broken ribs in the deadly attack.
Relations between the United States and Pakistan have become increasingly frayed since the early May killing of bin Laden in a Pakistani town with a heavy military presence, where he’d been holed up for several years. U.S. officials suspect that some members of the military and the ISI helped harbor him there, even if top Pakistani officials truly were kept in the dark about bin Laden’s presence there.
The Times’s report comes after journalists and others within Pakistan accused the ISI of being behind Shahzad’s death, and since the Pakistani government – under pressure — launched an investigation of the killing.
A Pakistani official, meanwhile, shot down the Times’s report.
“There is an international conspiracy to malign the law enforcement agencies and security forces,” Pakistani information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said Tuesday, the Hindustan Times reported.
The allegations made by the Obama administration “are part of that conspiracy,” she said.
Awan also said that “good relations are in the interest of both” the United States and Pakistan, though “everybody safeguards their own interests” in a conflict and there have been some “ups and downs.”