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9 journalists among 42 killed in twin suicide blasts in Kabul, IS claims attack

The first explosion in the Shashdarak area close to buildings of the NDS intelligence service was followed by one outside the ministry of urban development and housing.

world Updated: Apr 30, 2018 23:50 IST
Kabul blast,Suicide attack,Afghanistan blast
Afghan journalists are seen after a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan on April 30, 2018.(Reuters Photo)

A string of terror attacks in Afghanistan on Monday claimed 42 lives, including nine journalists, who died in twin bombings by Islamic State suicide attackers in the capital Kabul.

It was the deadliest day for the country’s media since a US-led campaign ousted the Taliban regime in 2001. Besides the journalists killed in Kabul, a reporter working for the Afghan service of BBC was shot dead while driving home in the eastern city of Khost.

At least 30 people were killed and 49 more injured when two suicide blasts ripped through the heavily fortified Shashdarak area of Kabul on Monday morning.

The first blast was triggered by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle, police officials said. The second explosion occurred at the same spot about 20 minutes later, when a large number of journalists had gathered in the area.

Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said a suicide bomber posed as a media worker and blew himself up when reporters and rescue workers had gathered. “We know that a suicide bomber pretended to be a reporter. He showed his press card and stood among journalists before blowing himself up,” he said.

Among the nine journalists killed was AFP’s chief photographer for Afghanistan, Shah Marai, a well regarded photo-journalist who started as a driver for the news wire and covered the Taliban regime. Journalists, including a woman, from Tolo News, 1TV, Mashal TV and Azadi Radio and four police personnel were also killed.

File photo of Agence France-Presse (AFP) chief photographer Shah Marai. Marai was killed in a secondary explosion targeting a group of journalists who had rushed to the scene of a suicide blast in the Afghan capital. ( AFP Photo )

Hours after the blasts in Kabul, a suicide bomber in an explosives-laden van attacked a foreign military convoy in southern Kandahar province, killing 11 children in a nearby religious school and injuring 16 others, police said.

Ahmad Shah, who worked for the BBC’s Pashto service, was killed on the outskirts of Khost, said Talib Mangal, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blasts in Kabul in a statement posted online, saying it targeted the Afghan intelligence headquarters. The two other attacks were not claimed by any group.

“These attacks caused untold human suffering to Afghan families,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the top UN official in Afghanistan. “I am furthermore outraged by the attack which appears to have deliberately targeted journalists,” he said in a statement.

The attacks, a week after 60 people were killed in an Islamic State bombing as they waited at a voter registration centre in Kabul, underlined mounting insecurity despite repeated government pledges to tighten defences.

The attacks in rapid succession are a grim reminder of the strength of the Taliban and Islamic State’s Khorasan branch to wreak violence despite stepped up US air attacks under a new policy for the 16-year-old war.

The Taliban, fighting to restore their version of strict Islamic law, announced their annual spring offensive last week and there has been heavy fighting in several areas.

Afghanistan is already considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, with at least 20 killed last year. Last week, unidentified gunmen shot a journalist in southern Kandahar city.

The most serious attack on Afghan media before Monday occurred in 2016, when seven workers for Tolo News were killed in an attack claimed by the Taliban.

Hundreds of people have been killed and wounded in a series of attacks in Kabul since the beginning of the year, despite President Ashraf Ghani’s offer in February for peace talks “without preconditions”.

First Published: Apr 30, 2018 09:57 IST