ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - A bomb explosion in Afghanistan’s volatile southern Helmand province Thursday killed a reporter working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Afghan Service, Radio Azadi.
Afghan officials said the slain journalist, Elyas Dayee, and his brother were traveling to the press club in Lashkargah, the provincial capital, when a “magnetic" explosive device ripped through their car. The blast injured his brother, also a journalist, and two others.
Dayee had been reporting from Helmand for more than a decade for the Afghan branch of the U.S. government’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s external broadcast services.
No one immediately took responsibility for the early morning bombing in Lashkargah, which has been under attack from Taliban insurgents for almost a month.
“My colleague and dear friend, Elyas Dayee, lost his life in a terrorist attack this morning in Lashkargah. He was gentleman. Always had signature smile. This is a terrible news. Elyas, you will be remembered dearly,” tweeted Sami Mahdi, the Radio Azadi bureau chief in Kabul.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media, the parent agency of VOA, RFE/RL and other U.S.-funded media networks, also condemned the attack.
“This was a cowardly act and an assault on the universal principle of freedom of expression,” USAGM CEO Michael Pack said. “We offer our deepest condolences to Dayee’s family, and call for the perpetrators to be held accountable.”
Radio Azadi is said to reach more than 60% of Afghanistan’s population with its radio and internet programs.
My colleague and dear friend, Elyas Dayee, lost his life in a terrorist attack this morning in Lashkargah. He was gentleman. Always had signature smile. This is a terrible news. Elyas, you will be remembered dearly. pic.twitter.com/C2rf8Baw5S— Sami Mahdi (@Samiullah_mahdi) November 12, 2020
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the killing of Dayee as the work of “enemies" of Afghanistan “to hide their heinous crimes and to silence the expressive voice of media.”
The United States also denounced Thursday’s killing of Radio Azadi journalist. “This is another attack on the freedom of the press. These attacks on journalists must stop immediately,” tweeted acting U.S. ambassador in Kabul, Ross Wilson.
I vehemently condemn the killing of Radio Azadi News journalist Elyas Dayee by a magnetic bomb this morning. This is another attack on the freedom of the press. These attacks on journalists must stop immediately. My deepest sympathies to his family & colleagues at @DaRadioAzadi.— Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson (@USAmbKabul) November 12, 2020
Last Saturday, a similar magnetic explosive device in Kabul killed three senior officials of the central bank, including a renowned former television political talk show host.
No group claimed responsibility for that attack, although government officials blamed the Taliban.
Conflict-torn Afghanistan remains one of the deadliest countries for journalists in the world.
In recent weeks, the country has experienced a wave of unexplained high-profile assassinations and targeted killings of educators, activists, journalists, and government officials in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.
The Ghani government has come under increasing pressure from its critics for alleged security and intelligence failure to stem the violence.