Nine journalists among 41 killed in Afghanistan suicide bombings

Kabul/Kandahar: At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed as two suicide bombers blew themselves up in quick succession in the Afghan capital on Monday. Hours later, another suicide bomber struck in Kandahar province killing 11 madrassa students.

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the Kabul bombings where French news agency AFP’s chief photographer Shah Marai was among the journalists killed. There was no claim of responsibility for the bloodbath in Kandahar, a former stronghold of the Taliban.

In a separate incident, 29-year-old BBC reporter Ahmad Shah was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Khost province, taking the toll in the Monday violence to 42.

A militant on a motorbike carried out the first explosion at 8 a.m. in Kabul’s Shashdarak area in Police District 9 which houses the offices of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, Defence Ministry, NATO and many embassies, prompting journalists to rush to the scene.

Another bombing occurred about 20 minutes later when an attacker, posing as a cameraman, detonated explosives as journalists gathered at the site of the first blast.

The Islamic State claimed the twin blasts through its news agency Amaq and said the intelligence services headquarters was the target.

AFP said the death of its “treasured colleague” Shah Marai, who had written of the dangers of reporting in the Afghan capital, was “a devastating blow”.

The other media fatalities were Mahram Durani and Abadullah Hananzai, of Radio Free Europe (RFE), Tolo News cameraman Yar Mohammad Tokhi, Afghanistan’s 1TV reporter Ghazi Rasooli as well as cameraman Nowroz Ali Rajabi, Mashal TV’s Ali Saleemi and Saleem Talash. Sabawon Kakar, a critically wounded RFE cameraman, died in a hospital.

“This is the deadliest day for Afghan media in the past 15 years,” the head of Tolo News TV, Lotfullah Najafizada, told the BBC.

Forty nine people were injured and taken to hospitals, the Interior Ministry said.

Hours later, 11 students of a madrassa were killed and 17 people, including five Romanian soldiers, were injured in a suicide attack aimed at a NATO convoy in Kandahar province.

The suicide bomber detonated a vehicle full of explosives in Haji Abdullah Khan village of Daman district at about 11 a.m., killing the children at a nearby madrassa. According to officials, the target were the Romanian troops patrolling the area.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the Kabul blasts. “Attacks targeting innocent civilians, worshippers inside the mosques, national and democratic processes, reporters and freedom of speech all are war crimes.”

CEO Abdullah Abdullah said: “Attack on the media is attack on democracy and an effort to silence the voice of voiceless.”

US Ambassador John Bass tweeted: “I condemn today’s terrible Kabul attack (and) reaffirm our commitment (to) stand with the Afghan people in their fight for peace (and) security across Afghanistan. We mourn for those murdered, including the brave journalists who stand for truth in the face of violence.”

Afghanistan has seen a spate of attacks this year. Last week, six people, including two Afghan soldiers, were killed in a car bombing in Helmand province.

On April 22, an Islamic State suicide bomber attacked a voter registration centre in Kabul, killing 60 people.

In March, 31 people were killed during the Persian new year celebrations in an Islamic State attack near a Shia shrine in Kabul.

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