High-ranking U.S. officials contend that the Pakistani government approved and sanctioned the killing of a Pakistani journalist who was investigating alleged links between the country’s intelligence community and Islamic militants.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, who wrote for Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and the Italian news agency Adnkronos International, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in May. He had disappeared shortly after writing a story suggesting that a militant attack on Pakistani's principal naval base in Karachi was revenge for the navy’s attempts to root out al-Qaeda members in its ranks.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Washington on Thursday: It [the murder] was sanctioned by the [Pakistani government.] I have not seen anything to disabuse that the government knew about it.

The government had condemned Shahzad’s death when it happened and urged Islamabad to investigate the murder – however, not until now had a senior Washington figure openly accused the Pakistan government of being behind the murder.