Pulitzer Prize-winning Indian photographer killed in Afghanistan

Danish Siddiqui had been reporting on fighting between Afghan commandos and Taleban fighters. PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL (AFP) - A Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer with Reuters news agency was killed on Friday (July 16) covering fighting between Afghan security forces and the Taleban near a border crossing with Pakistan, the media outlet reported, citing an army commander.

Afghan forces were fighting to retake Spin Boldak when Danish Siddiqui and a senior officer were killed in Taleban crossfire, the commander told Reuters.

The agency reported Siddiqui, an Indian national, had been embedded with Afghan special forces in the former Taleban bastion of Kandahar this week.

"We are urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region," Reuters president Michael Friedenberg and editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni said in a statement.

"Danish was an outstanding journalist, a devoted husband and father, and a much-loved colleague. Our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time."

Reuters said Siddiqui, 38, had earlier reported being wounded in the arm by shrapnel while covering the fighting.

He was treated and had been recovering when Taleban fighters retreated from the fighting in Spin Boldak.

The agency reported an unnamed Afghan commander told them Siddiqui had been talking to shopkeepers when the Taleban attacked again.

It said it was unable to independently verify the details.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani expressed shock at Siddiqui's death, and said he was killed while covering "Taleban atrocities".

Conflict and refugees

Siddiqui was part of a team that shared the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for documenting the Rohingya refugee crisis.

The agency said he had worked for them since 2010, covering the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Rohingya refugees crisis, the Hong Kong protests and Nepal earthquakes.

The US State Department said it was "deeply saddened" by Siddiqui's death and hailed his work.

"Far too many journalists have been killed in Afghanistan. We continue to call for an end to the violence. A just and durable peace settlement is the only way forward in Afghanistan," a spokeswoman said.

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Afghanistan has long been one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.

In May, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked it 122nd out of 180 countries on its latest World Press Freedom Index.

Several journalists, including women, have been killed in targeted attacks since the Taleban and Washington signed a deal in February 2020 that paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign forces.

Prominent television anchors, reporters and freelancers have been shot dead in rush-hour traffic in Kabul and other cities, while scores have been threatened.

Officials blame the Taleban for the murders, although some assassinations have been claimed by the militant Islamic State.

Around 1,000 Afghan media workers have left their jobs, an Afghan journalists' safety committee said in May.

"The threats and violence against journalists have a direct impact on the media and make their work especially difficult," RSF said.

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