Journalists shot in Pehswar

Gunmen have shot and wounded two foreign journalists in Peshawar, the third attack in as many days on foreigners in the northwest Pakistani city.

A Japanese journalist and his Afghan colleague are the latest victims of spiralling militant violence in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan's volatile northwestern region.

The pair were shot after gunmen ambushed their vehicle on the outskirts of the city, close to the tribal Khyber area where Pakistani forces are trying to defeat an Islamist insurgency.

It's not clear who carried out the attack - the third such incident targeting foreigners in as many days.

On Wednesday, a prominent American aid worker and his driver were gunned down outside the USAID official's home in Peshawar's upmarket University Town.

The Taliban is suspected of carrying out the assassinations, which sent a chill through the heavily-guarded neighbourhood and home to many diplomats and foreign aid workers.

The following day, gunmen kidnapped an Iranian diplomat and killed his guard in Hayatabad, the same suburb where the two journalists were attacked.

The string of shootings is stoking fears that the Taliban and al Qaeda are again making inroads into Peshawar - earlier this year security forces pushed out miltants operating in the suburbs close to the tribal belt.

This week, CIA Director Michael Hayden told a Washington think tank that the Pakistani tribal regions represented the greatest terrorism threat to the United States.

Since September, the U.S. has stepped up military strikes inside Pakistan aimed at destroying al Qaeda and Taliban bases.

The U.S. action is deeply unpopular among ordinary Pakistanis, who resent what they see as an assault on the country's sovereignty.

The Pakistani government is also fearful of the repercussions that could destroy the country's fragile democracy.

Helen Long, Reuters