Body of Reuters photographer was mutilated in Taleban custody, officials say

Photographers pay homage to Mr Danish Siddiqui in front of his portrait in Kathmandu on July 20, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (NYTIMES) - The body of Mr Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters photojournalist who was killed in Afghanistan this month, was badly mutilated while in the custody of the Taleban, officials said this past week.

The revelation comes amid concern that the fighting in Afghanistan, where the Taleban have carried out an aggressive military offensive since the United States withdrew nearly all its troops, has become increasingly brutal as peace talks have stalled.

Mr Siddiqui, 38, an Indian national who took some of the most memorable news photographs from South Asia in recent years, was killed on the morning of July 16, when Afghan commandos he had accompanied to Spin Boldak, a border district recently captured by the Taleban, were ambushed. Initial photographs from the scene showed Mr Siddiqui's body with multiple wounds but fully intact.

But by that evening, when the body was handed over to the Red Cross and transferred to a hospital in the southern city of Kandahar, it had been badly mutilated, according to two Indian officials and two Afghan health officials there.

The mutilation was reported by an Indian website, Newslaundry, in the days after Mr Siddiqui's killing.

The New York Times reviewed multiple photographs, some provided by Indian officials and others taken by Afghan health workers at the hospital, that showed Mr Siddiqui's body had been mutilated. One Indian official said that the body had nearly a dozen bullet wounds and that there were tyre marks on Mr Siddiqui's face and chest.

One of the health officials in Kandahar said that the body, along with Mr Siddiqui's press vest, had reached the city's main hospital around 8pm on the day he was killed. His face was unrecognisable, said the official, who added that he could not determine exactly what had been done to the body.

A Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied any wrongdoing on the part of the insurgents, saying that they were under orders to treat bodies with respect and to hand them over to local elders or the Red Cross.

But the Taleban were in control of the area at the time, and some photographs showed what appeared to be the group's fighters standing around Mr Siddiqui's body, which was then intact.

People carry the coffin of Mr Danish Siddiqui, who was killed while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taleban fighters near a border crossing with Pakistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

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