BY Wall Street Journal

Nine Journalists Among Dozens Killed by Kabul Bombs

In one of the deadliest days for journalists anywhere, nine Afghan reporters, photographers and cameramen were killed Monday in coordinated suicide bombings in the heavily fortified heart of Afghanistan’s capital.

In all, at least 26 people, most of them civilians, were killed and another 47 wounded when two suicide bombers, one on a motorcycle and the other disguised as a photographer, carried out the attack during morning rush hour near the headquarters of the National Directorate of Intelligence , Afghanistan’s spy agency.

As police and rescue personnel converged on the site where the motorcyclist had detonated his explosives amid crowds of pedestrians streaming to work in nearby government buildings, the second attacker arrived on foot carrying a camera, a senior security official said.

The man walked to a group of journalists who had rushed to the site of the attack and blew himself up, a senior security official said.

A feisty, often independent-minded media has been one of Afghanistan’s great accomplishments since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that drove the Taliban from power. But more than 16 years of war between the Western-backed government and an array of insurgent groups has made Afghanistan one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.

“This is one of the bloodiest and darkest days in the history of Afghan media,” said Najib Sharifi, head of the Afghanistan Journalists Safety Committee , who confirmed the number of journalists killed in the attack.

Within minutes of the twin bombings the Taliban, which last week announced the start of its spring fighting season, warning of attacks on foreign troops and Afghan security forces, denied any involvement in it. Later, in a statement issued by its Amaq news agency, Islamic State said it had carried out the bombings.

Who, or what group, actually carried out the attack was far from certain, though. Islamic State’s local affiliate, which in recent months has stepped up attacks in the capital, is known to claim responsibility for some attacks in Afghanistan it doesn’t carry out. The Taliban, the country’s largest insurgency, often denies its role in bloodshed if civilian casualties are too high.

Announcing the overall death toll, Afghan government spokesman Javid Faisal said, “Only a few government officers are among the victims, the rest are all civilians.”

Among the dead journalists was Shah Marai, a photographer for Agence France-Presse . A statement by the Paris-based news agency described the attack as a devastating blow.

“Shah Marai was a treasured colleague who spent more than 15 years documenting the tragic conflict in Afghanistan for AFP,” said Michele Leridon, the organization’s global news director.

The government of President Ashraf Ghani condemned the bombings as an attack on freedom of the press.

“We strongly condemn this attack and will thoroughly investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable,” spokesman Mr. Faisal said. “We all need to be on one side against these terrorists.”

Besides Mr. Marai, the other journalists killed Monday, according to Mr. Sharifi, were Yar Mohammad Tokhi, cameraman for local TV station Tolonews; Mashal TV reporter Salim Talash and cameraman Ali Salimi ; 1TV reporter Ghazi Rasouli and cameraman Nowruz Ali ; reporter Ebadullah Hananzai and Sabawoon Kakar of Radio Free Europe; and Mahram Durrani, anchor for Salam Watandar Radio.

According to Reporters Without Borders, the deadliest single attack on journalists occurred in the Philippines in 2009, when a private militia killed 57 people, including 32 journalists, during a political campaign on the island of Mindanao.