Daphne Caruana Galizia

Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who spearheaded the probe into the Panama Papers scandal in Malta, was killed in a car bomb attack on Monday.

The blast that ripped her Peugeot 108 into pieces took place near her home in Malta. She had published a series of reports that implicated Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat, his wife and associates in the offshore money laundering scandal that erupted two years ago. Muscat had launched legal proceedings against her.

The fearless blogger, who was termed 'one-woman WikiLeaks' by Politico, had warned that she received death threats a fortnight ago.

Prime Minister Muscat condemned the killing, saying it was a "barbaric attack on press freedom." "Everyone knows Ms Caruana Galizia was a harsh critic of mine ... both politically and personally, but nobody can justify this barbaric act in any way," he said at a press conference.

Meanwhile, Nationalist party leader Adrian Delia said the murder of the 53-year-old journalist was linked to her reporting. "A political murder took place today ... What happened today is not an ordinary killing. It is a consequence of the total collapse of the rule of law which has been going on for the past four years," he said in a statement.

Galizia had steered clear of party affiliations and targeted corruption at all levels. Her blog, Running Commentary, had outsmarted and outsold even national newspapers after she took on graft at high places.

"There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate," she said in her last post, which was uploaded merely half an hour before her car was bombed. She had just left home and was on a road near the village of Bidnija in northern Malta when the bomb went off, Reuters reported, citing local people.

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange offered a $23,578 reward for anyone who lends information that would help the convict the killers.