Afghan journalist for US-funded Radio Liberty killed in bombing

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An Afghan journalist working for a US-funded radio network was killed in a blast in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, officials said, just days after a former television presenter was murdered in Kabul.

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The death of Radio Liberty reporter Aliyas Dayee in Helmand province -- the center of intense fighting between government forces and the Taliban in recent weeks -- was condemned by the presidency as yet another attack on press freedom in the war-torn country.

Helmand governor’s spokesman Omar Zwak said Dayee was killed in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah when a “sticky bomb” attached to his car exploded.

Dayee was 33 and is survived by one daughter, Radio Liberty’s chief editor Rateb Noori told AFP.

He was on his way to the local press club along with his brother, who was wounded in the blast, Noori added.

Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman to President Ashraf Ghani, decried the attack.

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“Without a doubt, the assassination of Aliyas Dayee is the work of the enemies of freedom of expression and media,” Sediqqi said on Twitter.

Radio Liberty, originally set up during the Cold War, is funded by the US government.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Dayee’s murder comes after Yama Siawash, a former Afghan television presenter, was killed on November 7 in a similar bomb attack in Kabul.
The two murders come amid surging violence across Afghanistan, much of it unleashed by the Taliban as they attempt to gain leverage in seemingly stalled peace talks in Qatar.

Lashkar Gah saw intense fighting last month when Taliban militants launched a broad offensive in a bid to seize the city, triggering an exodus of thousands of families.

Helmand -- a Taliban stronghold -- is where international forces fought some of the bloodiest campaigns of Afghanistan’s 19-year war.

Targeted killings of prominent figures, including journalists, clerics, politicians and rights activists, have also become more common in recent months.

On Wednesday, Vice President Amrullah Saleh accused the Taliban of planning to kill members of civil society groups.

“They are soft targets. The killings are aimed at eroding and hurting the emotions of the society, which will lead to people’s dissatisfaction with the government,” Saleh, a strong critic of the Taliban, said on Twitter.

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