Abducted Sudanese Journalist Found Dead

By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, September 7, 2006

EL FASHER, Sudan, Sept. 6 -- A Sudanese newspaper editor who infuriated Muslim fundamentalists last year by printing an article that concerned questions about the parentage of the prophet Muhammad was found dead Wednesday in Khartoum, the capital.

Masked gunmen abducted Mohamed Taha, editor in chief of Al-Wifaq, from his home Tuesday. His decapitated body was found Wednesday in another section of the city. His head was beside the body, and his hands and feet had been bound, the Reuters news service reported.

Groups of tearful Sudanese reporters gathered outside a mosque in Khartoum on Wednesday night, according to news reports.

Reporters Without Borders, a group that promotes press freedoms worldwide, condemned the killing.

"We express our solidarity with our colleagues in Khartoum, for whom this cowardly murder is a harsh ordeal," the organization said in a statement. "The Sudanese authorities must do their utmost to see that light is shed on this tragedy, so that both the perpetrators and those who instigated it are brought to trial."

Last year, Taha published an article that referred to a centuries-old text by a Muslim historian that raised questions about the prophet's lineage. Religious leaders in Khartoum denounced Taha's work, and scores of protesters called for his death.

Prosecutors tried Taha for blasphemy, a charge that can carry the death penalty under sharia , or Islamic law, in Sudan. Taha, who was fined about $3,000, apologized in print for upsetting Muslims. His newspaper also was temporarily suspended from printing.

No group has asserted responsibility for Taha's killing, though news reports quoted government officials as saying there have been arrests in the case.

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