Journalists targeted in attack by IS

Jihadists claim responsibility for deadly raid by suicide bombers on Afghan broadcaster

Suicide bombers stormed the national television station in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad city yesterday, killing six people as gunfights and explosions rocked the building with journalists trapped inside, officials and witnesses said. At least 17 others were wounded in the four-hour assault on Radio Television Afghanistan – the latest in a string of attacks on media workers in the conflict-torn country.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the raid in eastern Nangarhar province, where the US military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb last month in an unprecedented strike.

“There were four attackers. One blew himself up at the gate, killing the guard,” Nangarhar Governor Gulab Mangal said.

“Three others entered the building but were killed after our security forces fought them for four hours.

“Six people, including four civilians and two policemen, were killed and 17 others wounded.”

A health worker said many of those taken to hospital suffered gunshot wounds.

A photographer said he fled as soon as the gunfight erupted, but many of his colleagues were stuck in the building until the assailants were killed.

Nangarhar province is a hotbed of IS jihadists, who claimed yesterday’s attack through its propaganda agency, Amaq, the SITE Intelligence Group said.

Last month the US military dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb on IS positions in Nangarhar, killing dozens of jihadists.

The bombing triggered global shock waves, with some condemning the use of Afghanistan as what they called a testing ground for the weapon, and against a militant group that is not considered as big a threat as the resurgent Taliban.

According to the US Forces-Afghanistan, defections and recent battlefield losses have reduced the IS presence from a peak of as many as 3 000 fighters to a maximum of 800. The Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to break the deadlocked fight against the Taliban.

US troops in Afghanistan number about 8 400 and there are a further 5 000 from Nato allies, who also mainly serve in an advisory capacity – a far cry from the US presence of more than 100 000 six years ago.

Yesterday’s attack underscores the growing dangers faced by media workers in Afghanistan as the security situation worsens.

Last year the country suffered its deadliest year on record for journalists, according to the Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee (AJSC), which said the country was the second most dangerous for reporters in the world after Syria.

At least 13 journalists were killed last year, AJSC said, claiming the Taliban was behind most deaths.

In January last year, seven employees of popular TV channel Tolo, which is often critical of the insurgents, were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul in what the militant group said was revenge for spreading propaganda against them.

It was the first major attack on an Afghan media organisation since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001.- AFP

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