The top-ranking U.S. military officer said Thursday that elements within the Pakistani government apparently “sanctioned” the killing of a journalist in late May, but that he could not tie the death to the country’s intelligence service.
Admiral Mike Mullen ((chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) said he has not seen anything to counter reports that Islamabad approved the beating death of Pakistani reporter Saleem Shahzad.
Shahzad, who worked for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, disappeared from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad on May 29. His body was found in a canal two days later bearing signs of torture.
The journalist’s killing has prompted intense speculation about the possible involvement of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, one of the most powerful institutions in the country. The ISI says the allegations are “baseless.”
Before his death, Shahzad had been investigating alleged ties between Pakistan’s military and Islamist groups. He reported that al-Qaida militants had attacked a Pakistani naval base after talks failed to secure the release of two naval officials arrested on suspicion of links to the global terror network.
Mullen acknowledged U.S. relations with Pakistan are “under extraordinary pressure.”
He said Islamabad’s already fragile bond with Washington became severely strained when U.S. special operations forces killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a raid on his compound deep into Pakistan in May.