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US immigration detains Pak journalist

August 14, 2009 18:25 IST

Agents of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Rahman Bunairee, a reporter with the Voice of America who has been on Taliban militia's target, at the Washington Dulles International Airport earlier this week. 

Media reports said even though the Immigration and Customs Enforcement had confirmed that Bunairee was in the agency's custody, they were unwilling to give out further details owing privacy reasons.

Bunairee, who files reports for VOA's Pashto language service, had during a July 7 call-in-radio show claimed that Taliban militants were still patrolling streets in several villages in Buner despite claims by the government that the militia had largely been eliminated from the area. 

Days later, a few dozen militants attacked his home in Buner. The militants allowed the 11 members of his family inside at the time to leave and then ransacked the house for valuables before detonating explosives.

Immediately after the attack, officials at VOA arranged to bring Bunairee to the United States on a J-1 visa, often used by research institutions to bring in scholars and experts on temporary visits. However, he was detained soon after he landed on US soil.

Flaying the US agency over Bunairee's arrest, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement that said: 'Bunairee was targetted by Islamic militants for his reporting on the conflict in Pakistan, an area of great strategic interest to the United States. His employer arranged to bring him to Washington so that he could continue his journalism in relative safety. And our country is slamming the door in his face.'

'US authorities must explain why they are holding a journalist with a valid US visa and release him immediately,' said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator.

Image: Pakistani Taliban fighters gesture towards the camera before leaving Buner (Inset) Rahman Bunairee
Photograph: Stringer/Reuters