Fifth Afghan journalist killed in two months in a series of “targeted” attacks

An Afghan journalist and human rights activist was shot and killed on Friday by unidentified gunmen in western Afghanistan, the fifth journalist killed in the war-torn country in the past two months, a spokesman for the province said.

Bismillah Adil Aimaq was on his way near Feroz Koh, the provincial capital of Ghor, and returned home to the city after visiting his family in a nearby village when gunmen opened fire on the vehicle.

According to provincial governor spokesman Arif Abir, others in the car, including Aimaq’s brother, were unharmed. Aimaq worked as the head of the local radio station Sada-e-Ghor and was also a human rights activist in the province.

No one immediately took responsibility for the shooting. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid insisted the insurgents were in no way linked to the shooting.

Aimaq was the fifth journalist killed in attacks in the past two months. Last week, Rahmatullah Nekzad, who led the journalists’ union in eastern Ghazni province, was killed in an attack by gunmen outside his home. Nekzad was well known in the area and had contributed to The Associated Press since 2007. He had previously worked for Al Jazeera satellite TV channel.

Afghanistan’s intelligence department claimed that two perpetrators of the attack were subsequently arrested and sent video footage of the two, with their alleged confessions to killing and being a Taliban. The Taliban, however, denied involvement in the assassination and called it a cowardly act. Large strands in Ghazni province are under Taliban control.

The Islamic State group, which has been blamed for a series of attacks on a number of targets in Afghanistan in recent months, claimed it had killed another Afghan journalist earlier in December. Two assailants opened fire and killed TV anchor woman Malala Maiwand as she left her house in eastern Nangarhar province. Her driver was also killed.

In November, two journalists were killed in separate bombings.

Relentless attacks on journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the relentless attacks on journalists in Afghanistan. The international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has called the country one of the world’s deadliest journalists.

Earlier this week, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said that targeted killings of Afghan journalists had a negative impact on reporting in the country and led to self-censorship in the media community. The statement said that a number of female journalists had left their jobs in the provinces due to ongoing threats.

The statement further said that the majority of journalists cannot go out in some provinces openly and the government has neglected when they reported the threats they faced.

Targeted killings and violence have increased across Afghanistan even as the Taliban and Kabul governments continue to hold peace talks that began in September. Following some recent procedural progress, talks have been suspended until early January and there is speculation that readmission may be further delayed.