VOA’s Ibrahim Rahimi contributed to this report from Paktia, Afghanistan.
A mini-bus carrying the employees of a private television station in Afghanistan has been struck by a magnetic bomb pasted to the vehicle, killing two people and injuring three others, all civilians, Afghan officials said Sunday.
Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesperson for the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs said Sunday that a bomb was placed inside the vehicle carrying the employees of Khorshid TV, a privately-owned TV station that is headquartered in the capital, Kabul.
According to officials, two people have been killed in the attack including the driver of the vehicle and a civilian passing by. Three others were wounded, two are employees of Khorshid TV and the third person is a civilian who was near the vehicle.
No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but this is not the first time that journalists have been targeted in the country by militant groups.
Incident follows reporter’s killing
Last month, unknown armed assailants killed a reporter for a local radio station in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province.
Nader Shah Sahibzada, a reporter for Voice of Gardiz local radio, went missing in July and authorities found his body a day later near his home in the capital city, Gardiz.
Initial autopsy reports suggest that Sahibzada had been severely tortured and stabbed to death.
No group claimed responsibility for Sahibzada’s killing, but in June the Taliban warned Afghan media outlets that if they do not stop what the militant group called “anti-Taliban statements”, they would be targeted.
“Those who continue doing so will be recognized by the group as military targets who are helping the Western-backed government of Afghanistan,” the insurgent group said in a statement.
“Reporters and staff members will not remain safe,” the statement added.
Violence a dead-end street
Both the U.S. and Afghanistan condemned Taliban’s threats against the Afghan media outlets.
“Freedom of expression and attacks on media organizations is in contradiction to human and Islamic values,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office said in a statement.
John Bass, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, said in a tweet that the Taliban should stop threatening Afghan journalists.
“More violence, against journalists or civilians, will not bring security and opportunity to Afghanistan, nor will it help the Taliban reach their political objectives,” Bass said.
Sunday’s attack is not an isolated incident. According to media advocacy groups in Afghanistan, so far this year seven local journalists have been killed by militants excluding Sunday’s attack.
Deadliest place for journalists
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which advocates for freedom of the press around the world, reported that Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest country for journalists in 2018 followed by Syria.
The group said in its annual report in late December that 15 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan and 11 others have been killed in Syria, making both countries the deadliest places for journalists around the world.
The increased fatalities among journalists in Afghanistan is due in part to bombings and shootings that targeted media workers.
In April of 2018, a double bombing in Kabul killed nine journalists, including six Radio Free Europe reporters.
The Islamic State (IS) terror group claimed responsibility for those attacks, which they said deliberately targeted journalists.
Some materials used in this report came from Reuters.