By Prarthana Mitra
Multiple suicide bombings in Afghanistan led to the death of 29 people including 8 journalists. The incident is the biggest terrorist crackdown on Afghan media since 2001. The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks in Kabul yesterday morning, a week after Taliban militants targeted a voter registration office killing as many as 50 people in the country’s capital.
Terrormonitor, which monitors terrorist groups globally, tweeted IS had claimed responsibility for the Kabul bombings, which also wounded at least 45 people.
Here’s what happened
The first explosion occurred early in the morning, when a suicide bomber reportedly on a motorcycle detonated outside the headquarters of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, located in central Kabul. Journalists and emergency workers who had rushed to the scene of the first bombing near the Afghan Intelligence Agency and NATO compound may have been among the intended targets of the second blast, according to a statement from Presidential Palace.
Among those killed were Shah Marai, chief photographer for Agence France Press (AFP), seven other reporters from local stations, and many law enforcement officers. Najib Sharifi, director of the Afghan Journalist Safety Committee, said at least seven journalists lost their lives and condemned it as the worst attack on the country’s journalists.
BREAKING: AFP has confirmed that one of their photographers Shah Marai was killed in Kabul blast on Monday morning. pic.twitter.com/GaFNvzJ2CL
— TOLOnews (@TOLOnews) April 30, 2018
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack and added that their targets were the intelligence headquarters and the American spy agency.
In a separate attack yesterday, 11 schoolchildren were killed and 16 critically injured in an IED attack, during a patrol mission led by NATO forces in the southern city of Kandahar.
Why you should care
Afghanistan has historically been one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. However, the very nature of the political turmoil in the nation and the global repercussions of the same ensures that the country is always under the radar of media, both local and international. Sharifi described Afghanistan’s vibrant, critical press as “one of the biggest achievements of the government” to NPR. This attack comes as a huge blow to the freedom of the press in the country.
Horrible day for media in Afghanistan. A bomber attacked a group of journalists covering a terrorist attack in Kabul this morning. Photographer Shah Marai, reporter Ghazi Rasouli and cameraman Yar Tokhi are among those killed. pic.twitter.com/nkPdY6GxIi
— Habib Khan (@HabibKhanT) April 30, 2018
Another alarming factor about the attack is the nature of the second bomber’s actions. Police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai told the Associated Press that he may have been disguised as a journalist and was probably carrying the explosive inside his video camera. CNN spoke to reporter Ali M Latifi, who says the camera is part of a journalist’s identity but this incident has not only targeted the media but brings journalistic credibility into question in terms of security policies.
“This is a very big threat,” said Anees Ur Rehman, another Afghan journalist, sadly reflecting on the new diabolical methods being adopted by terrorists to kill people, target first responders and prevent the media from practising journalism.
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