Daphne Caruana Galizia killed in Malta vehicle bomb blast

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A Maltese investigative journalist who exposed the island nation's links to offshore tax havens through the leaked Panama Papers has been killed as a bomb exploded in her vehicle.

Simultaneously, a few years ago she started her personal blog known as Running Commentary, which earned her both admiration for her fearless critique, as well as opprobrium for her poison-pen missives.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who faced accusations of wrong-doing by Caruana Galizia earlier this year, denounced her killing, calling it a "barbaric attack on press freedom".

A blogger whose posts often attracted more readers than the combined circulation of the country's newspapers, Galizia was recently described by the Politico website as a "one-woman WikiLeaks".

The report had said documents in a small Malta-based bank showed that Muscat's wife was the beneficial owner of a company in Panama, and that large sums of money had been moved between the company and bank accounts in Azerbaijan.

MEPs openly called for Muscat's departure amid a growing scandal involving his wife, a Panamanian shell company and alleged payments from the president of Azerbaijan's daughter. Economy Minister Chris Cardona claimed libel when she wrote that he visited a brothel while in Germany on government business.

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Monday evening's Parliament session was scrapped, except for briefings about the bombing scheduled to be given by Muscat and Delia, the opposition leader.

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Mr Muscat said he had asked the United States government and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for help investigating the auto bombing.

Caruana Galizia, 53, ran a hugely popular blog in which she relentlessly highlighted cases of alleged high-level corruption targeting politicians from across party lines. The leak exposed the identities of rich and powerful people around the world who allegedly had offshore holdings in Panama.

"The applicants have no trust in Magistrate Consuelo Scerri Herrera, and do not believe that she can conduct a magisterial inquiry through the seriousness and impartiality that is needed in the search for truth behind the brutal murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia".

"We will not accept an investigation by the Commissioner of Police, the Army commander or the duty magistrate, all of whom were at the heart of criticism by Caruana Galizia", he said.

Caruana Galizia for many years was a harsh critic of Malta's Labor party and government.

Her slaying drew swift denunciations in the tiny European Union nation.

European politicians expressed dismay at her death.