Saturday, November 15, 2008

PESHAWAR, Pakistan | A gunman ambushed a Japanese reporter and an Afghan colleague Friday, wounding both men and their Pakistani driver in the latest attack on foreigners in Pakistan’s volatile northwest region in three days.

Security appears to be crumbling in Peshawar, a city of 2 million where an Iranian diplomat was kidnapped Thursday and an American aid worker was killed Wednesday.

Motoki Yotsukura, Asahi Shimbun’s bureau chief, was in a car with Sami Yousufzai, an Afghan who has worked for Western publications including Newsweek, when the assailant opened fire, police said.

“Three armed men intercepted our car, and one of them aimed his pistol at me,” Mr. Yousufzai said from a hospital. “He opened fire when I put up resistance. I got a bullet in my hand.”

Mr. Yotsukura was wounded in the leg, police said. The injuries to Mr. Yousufzai and the driver also were not life threatening.

Asahi Shimbun reported that Mr. Yotsukura, 39, had left earlier Friday from Islamabad on a reporting trip to interview people close to the Taliban.

Officers were investigating whether the attack was an attempted assassination or an attempted kidnapping.

Peshawar and the nearby lawless tribal area have seen a rise in attacks on foreigners. A Chinese, an Afghan and a Pole are currently being held after being seized in the region, which is also home to criminal gangs who kidnap for ransom, drug runners and smugglers.

Speaking before Friday’s attack, Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said he thought Pakistani Taliban were behind the kidnappings. “Ultimately it leads to Tahreek-e-Taliban,” Mr. Malik said, referring to the group by its Pakistani name.

Also Friday, a missile strike apparently from a U.S. drone hit a house in the tribal region close to the Afghan border, killing at least 12 people including several foreign militants, Pakistan intelligence officials said. They said there was no immediate indication they were senior figures.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The United States is suspected of having launched 19 missiles from unmanned drones based in Afghanistan since mid-August, killing scores of suspected extremists but angering the Pakistani government.

The attacks are aimed at al Qaeda and Taliban leaders sheltering in the region and blamed for rising violence in neighboring Afghanistan.

Friday’s missile attack occurred in North Waziristan, a militant hotbed and the scene of most of the other suspected U.S. strikes.

Facing missile strikes and a bloody Pakistan military offensive, the militants have hit back with suicide bombings, abductions and assassinations.

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