A journalist was shot dead on Thursday in Pakistan, the deadliest country in the world for journalists in 2010, according to IPI’s Death Watch.

Wali Khan Babar, 28, a reporter for Geo News television, was gunned down in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi. He was shot five times by a group of unidentified people while driving home in his car, near the Super Market shopping centre of Liaqatabad. He received bullets in his forehead, face and neck.

After the shooting, the killers escaped using a motorbike. Geo News branded the murder a “targeted-killing attack”, noting that Babar had been reporting on police search operations related to gang clashes in eastern Karachi.

“The killing of a prominent reporter from the country’s largest news network in the largest city of Pakistan is a disturbing new development,” Cyril Almeida, assistant editor for Pakistan’s Dawn Media Group, said. “While Pakistani journalists are often under threat, it tends to be with regards to working in certain, more remote parts of the country or writing and reporting on the doings of the Security State Army. Wali Khan, however, was killed in a very central part of the city.”

Almeida added: “Being an ethnic Pashtun, it raises the question of whether it is tied to the bitter and bloody struggle being waged in the city between Pashtuns and Mohajirs (Urdu-speaking migrants from pre-partition India who live in Karachi).”

He said also that given the area of the killing, the ethnicity of the reporter and the general context of violence in the city, Babar’s murder was “unprecedented”, even by the “brutal standards of Pakistan”.

IPI Acting Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Wali Khan Babar, and offer our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. It is vital that the authorities in Pakistan tackle the impunity which is emboldening the killers of journalists.”

Babar’s killing was part of a coordinated attack which yesterday and today killed at least 19 people, according to the Dawn website.

Bashir Jan, deputy secretary general of Awami National Party (ANP), and his driver were injured when their car was attacked in the Gharibabad area, the police said.

A senior police official who was looking into the case was reported by the media as saying: “We are looking into the motive behind the killing and it is premature to say if this was also a targeted killing.”