President Hamid Karzai led condemnation on Wednesday of the killing of an Afghan journalist as colleagues expressed fear for their lives in the country's troubled south.
Unknown attackers shot dead Jawed Ahmad, who worked for a number of international media, including Canadian TV, as he drove through the centre of the southern city of Kandahar late on Tuesday.
Taliban insurgents have carried out several assassinations in the city but a spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, denied that the group was responsible for the killing of Ahmad, who was in his early 20s.
The journalist's body was taken to his family in Pakistan's city of Quetta on Wednesday for burial, colleagues said. He died after being shot in the head and chest, said one person who saw the body.
Karzai condemned the killing as "barbaric" in a statement from Iran, where he is on a state visit.
He blamed it on the "enemies of Afghanistan" -- a term that officials use to refer to Taliban and other insurgents -- but said it "cannot sabotage the move towards democracy and freedom of press in Afghanistan."
Ahmad, who also worked for Iran's Press TV, hit the headlines when he was arrested by the US military in Kandahar in 2007.
He was accused of being "an unlawful enemy combatant" and spent 11 months in custody before being released without explanation last September.
International media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists said it hoped the killing would not go unsolved, as had those of other Afghan journalists.
The government in Kandahar said it had launched an investigation to find the attackers. "At this time we can't say who they were," provincial government spokesman Zalmai Ayobi told AFP.
One of Ahmad's shocked colleagues said intelligence had warned several months ago of a "terrorist threat" against journalists.
Others said they were reconsidering working in the city, a heartland for the Taliban, which heavily restricted the media while in government between 1996 and 2001.
"If this happens to Jawed, it can happen to any of us. I'm scared," said Aziz Ahmad, a reporter from Afghan television station Hiwad.
"It's a very sad incident," said Ismaiel Samim, who works for international media. "At the same time, it is a signal for all of us that we're not safe here."