Gunmen murdered an Afghan journalist in the eastern city of Ghazni on Monday, the third reporter to be killed in the last two months in the violence-plagued country.
Rahmatullah Nekzad was shot dead with a silenced pistol by unknown gunmen near his home while he was travelling to a nearby mosque, Ghazni province police spokesman Ahmad Khan Seerat told AFP.
Targeted killings of prominent figures, including journalists, politicians and rights activists, have become more common in recent months as violence surges in Afghanistan, despite ongoing peace talks between the government and the Taliban.
No group has claimed Nekzad’s murder so far, and the Taliban have denied responsibility.
Nekzad, aged in his late 40s, had contributed to the Associated Press news agency since 2007, the agency said in its report filed on his assassination.
According to the report, while working for the AP, Nekzad was arrested at various times by the United States, the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents.
He had also worked for the Al Jazeera broadcast network, the Doha-based television group said.
Al Jazeera said it was “shocked at the news of the killing of photographer Rahmatullah Nekzad, a former colleague who worked with our team in Afghanistan.”
“This is a gross violation of media freedom and human rights.”
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee said Nekzad was the seventh media personnel to be killed so far this year in Afghanistan, a country rated as one of the deadliest for journalists by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
“AJSC strongly condemns the serial killing of Afghan journalists,” the committee, which reports on threats to media workers in Afghanistan, said on Twitter.
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Nekzad was married and is survived by six children.
– Attack on ‘freedom of expression’ –
His assassination drew strong condemnation.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the “terrorist attack” that killed Nekzad.
“The attack against civilians, public facilities and media workers are attacks against the freedom of expression and a crime against humanity,” Ghani said in a statement.
Global rights group Amnesty International said on Twitter that the murder was a “horrific crime” and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
Nekzad’s death follows the assassination earlier this month of female news anchor and activist Malalai Maiwand, who was shot dead with her driver in Jalalabad in an attack claimed by the jihadist Islamic State group.
Last month, Radio Liberty reporter Aliyas Dayee was killed in a car bomb attack in southern Lashkar Gah city. No group has claimed his murder so far.
A former television presenter, Yama Siawash, who had recently joined Afghanistan’s central bank, was also killed in November in a bomb attack in Kabul.
Violence has surged across Afghanistan in recent months.
Much of it has been unleashed by the Taliban as they attempt to gain leverage in peace talks, which opened in September in Doha but are currently on a break until early January.
Ghazni province has also seen deadly violence, with the Taliban and government forces clashing regularly in the region.
Fifteen children were killed on Friday when a motorbike laden with explosives blew up near a religious gathering in a village in the province.
Officials blamed the Taliban, but the insurgents denied involvement and said it was an “unexploded ordnance” that blew up and killed the children.
Last month, 30 security personnel were killed when a suicide car bomber struck an Afghan army base near Ghazni city, the provincial capital.
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