At least seven people were killed and at least 24 wounded when a suicide bomber struck a minibus carrying employees of popular Afghan TV channel TOLO on Wednesday, just months after the Taliban declared the network a legitimate “military target”.
The bombing took place near the Russian embassy in downtown Kabul and marks the first major attack on an Afghan media organisation.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the carnage, the latest in a wave of attacks despite an international push to jumpstart Taliban peace talks.
“Our office bus taking TOLO staff home came under attack,” an employee at the channel said, requesting anonymity.
The bombing left some staff members burning inside the vehicle, another employee said, adding that the bus was mostly filled with behind-the-scenes workers from the channel’s graphics and dubbing departments.
The loud explosion sent a plume of smoke rising in the sky, with ambulances and firefighters rushing to the scene which was littered with charred debris.
“The enemy of peace and Afghan people have martyred my colleagues,” Fawad Aman, a well-known TOLO TV anchor, wrote on his Facebook page.
“Such cowardly attacks will not deter us from exposing the truth.”
The Taliban in October declared TOLO and 1TV, both privately run news stations, as legitimate “military targets”.
The group said the move was in response to their reports claiming that Taliban fighters raped women at a female hostel in Kunduz, after the group briefly captured the northern city in late September last year.
The Taliban rejected the reports as fabrications, saying they were examples of propaganda by the “satanic networks”.
The attack, which highlights the growing dangers faced by journalists in Afghanistan, comes just two days after a second round of a four-country meeting in Kabul aimed at reviving talks with the Taliban.
The Taliban has stepped up attacks on government and foreign targets in Afghanistan this winter, when fighting usually abates, underscoring a worsening security situation. Observers say the intensifying insurgency highlights a push by the militants to seize more territory in an attempt to wrangle greater concessions during talks.