A twin suicide attack in Afghani capital Kabul has killed 25 people including up to nine journalists, with one bomber having disguised himself as a press cameraman before detonating a bomb among reporters.
In a separate incident in Afghanistan this morning, BBC Afghan reporter Ahmed Shah was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the country’s Khost region, aged 29.
In a statement BBC World Service Director Jamie Angus said Shah had worked for the BBC Afghan service for more than a year and was “a highly capable journalist who was a respected and popular member of the team”.
He added: “This is a devastating loss and I send my sincere condolences to Ahmad Shah’s friends and family and the whole BBC Afghan team. We are doing all we can to support his family at this very difficult time.”
In Kabul, Agence France-Presse photographer Shah Marai, two journalists from local TV station 1TV and a cameraman for local TV station Tolo were confirmed among the dead following the suicide-bomb blasts.
At least 45 others are reported to have been injured in co-ordinated explosions.
Police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai told the Press Association that the first suicide bomber was on a motorbike while the second rushed to the scene of the first explosion along with reporters, disguised as one of them, before detonating a second bomb.
Marai was the AFP’s chief photographer in Kabul and was part of the group of journalists killed by suicide bombers.
AFP global news director Michele Leridon has described his death as a “devastating blow for the close-knit Kabul bureau and the entire agency”.
She added: “Marai was a treasured colleague who spent more than 15 years documenting the tragic conflict in Afghanistan for AFP.
“We can only honour the extraordinary strength, courage and generosity of a photographer who covered often traumatic, horrific events with sensitivity and consummate professionalism.
“We also send our condolences to the families of other journalists killed in this terrible attack.”
In a blog post from 2016 Marai commented on the difficulties of reporting in Kabul.
He said: “Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity. I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five and they spend their time cooped up inside the house.
“Every morning as I go to the office and every evening when I return home, all I think of are cars that can be booby-trapped, or of suicide bombers coming out of a crowd. I can’t take the risk. So we don’t go out.”
Sediqullah Tawhidi, an official from the Afghan Journalist Safety Committee, said a cameraman from the local Tolo TV also was killed.
AAFP Chairman Fabrice Fries said: “This tragedy reminds us of the danger that our teams continually face on the ground and the essential role journalists play for democracy.”
The suicide attacks took place in the central Shash Darak district, which is home to the NATO headquarters and a number of embassies in Afghanistan.
Kabul chief of police Dawood Amin said the area of Kabul that was targeted, which includes many foreign embassies, was quickly sealed off.
Islamic State have claimed responsibility for the bombings in the Afghan capital while Shah’s killers remain unknown at the time of reporting.
Photo credit AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini