Rahman Bunairee: Pakistani Journalist Detained By US After Militants Bomb Home

09/14/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials are holding for undisclosed reasons a Pakistani journalist who works for an American media outlet.

Rahman Bunairee, a reporter with Voice of America who has been targeted by Taliban militants, was detained Sunday at Washington Dulles International Airport by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agency's spokeswoman, Kelly Nantel, said she could not say why Bunairee is being detained because of confidentiality laws.

A Voice of America spokeswoman did not immediately return calls for comment.

Taliban militants in northwest Pakistan bombed Bunairee's home on July 8, according to a July 9 story on Voice of America's Web site. He was not home during the attack, but he told the news outlet that no one in the home was injured.

Bob Dietz with the Committee to Protect Journalists met with Bunairee in Pakistan last month. Dietz said Bunairee was coming to the U.S. to take a one-year position with Voice of America. Dietz was told Bunairee had a valid U.S. visa.

Dietz said he did not have any information about whether Bunairee sought political asylum when he got to the U.S.

In late July, Bunairee told The Associated Press that the gunmen said they'd been instructed by a "high command" to destroy the house because he had spoken negatively of the Taliban in a radio report.

As Pakistan tries to stave off a Taliban insurgency, journalists have been threatened, attacked and killed, and even their relatives have faced harm. The pressure hobbles media that have flourished over the past decade and given Pakistanis a greater window into their often-inept government at a time when the world is watching.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said five journalists were killed in Pakistan last year, compared to 11 in Iraq. The New York-based group said two more journalists have been killed in Pakistan so far this year, including TV reporter Musa Khan Khel, who was shot while covering attempts to bring peace to the northwest's Swat Valley.

Killings are just a small part of the threat. Reporters have been kidnapped by militants and detained by intelligence agencies and have watched their press club facilities come under fire, those in the field said.

The Washington Post first reported Bunairee's detention on its Web site Thursday.