(MASSOUD HOSSAINI / AP)
KABUL/KANDAHAR: A coordinated double suicide bombing in Kabul and another targetting a military convoy in the southern city of Kandahar on Monday killed at least 36 people, including 9 schoolchildren, while over 60 others were injured, days after the Afghan Taliban kicked off their spring offensive in an apparent rejection of calls for the militants to take up the Afghan government’s offer of peace talks.
Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai confirmed that four policemen were among the 25 persons killed, while an Afghan media watchdog, the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC), confirmed that nine journalists were also killed in the twin attacks.
The AJSC said that five journalists were reportedly wounded in the Kabul attacks. AFP confirmed that its chief photographer Shah Marai, a journalist from 1TV and one from Tolo News were among the dead.
A first bomb was detonated by an assailant on a motorcycle and left at least four dead and five injured, according to the Interior Ministry. A second explosion came minutes after the first targeted reporters at the scene, Stanekzai told AFP.
“The bomber disguised himself as a journalist and detonated himself among the crowd,” he said.
A security source also confirmed both were suicide blasts.
The militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement issued via its propaganda agency Amaq. It claimed that two suicide bombers had targeted the Kabul headquarters of Afghanistan’s intelligence services. The Afghan Taliban are yet to offer a statement about the two attacks.
Shah Marai joined AFP as a driver in 1996, the year the Taliban seized power, and began taking pictures on the side, covering stories including the US invasion in 2001.
In 2002 he became a full-time photo stringer, rising through the ranks to become chief photographer in the bureau. He leaves behind six children, including a newborn daughter.
“This is a devastating blow, for the brave staff of our close-knit Kabul bureau and the entire agency,” the agency’s global news director Michele Leridon said. “We can only honour the strength, courage, and generosity of a photographer who covered often traumatic, horrific events with sensitivity and consummate professionalism.”
Separately, a BBC reporter was killed in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, the broadcaster said, hours after twin blasts in Kabul marked the deadliest day for journalists in the war-torn country since the Taliban’s fall in 2001.