Gunmen kill former TV presenter then escape in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Gunmen killed a former Afghan TV presenter on Thursday as he was travelling in the southern city of Kandahar, a provincial official said, adding to fears for press freedom in the war-wrecked country.

Nimat Rawan was shot at noon, provincial spokesman Baheer Ahmadi said, by two assailants who were able to escape with his mobile phone. Security officials have told several other journalists in the area that extremists are targeting them as well, he added.

The killing heightens worries over the fate of Afghan journalists as U.S. troops pullout. Many fear violence will spike and reprisals will be taken out against those who worked with foreign forces.

Rawan was a former presenter for the well-known local channel Tolonews. He had been working in the Finance Ministry’s media office, media watchdog Nia said in a statement.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but it comes a day after the Taliban issued a threat to Afghan journalists it considered too close to U.S.-backed security agencies.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid warned Afghan journalists against giving “one-sided news in support of Afghanistan’s intelligence,” or otherwise “face the consequences.”

Afghanistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. Since 2006, as many as 76 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan, according to UNESCO.

Last year alone at least 15 were killed, and earlier this year, three women employed by media outlets were killed in eastern Afghanistan. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for some of the killings, including that of the three women. The majority of the targeted journalists have been women.

The government blames a resurgent Taliban — who now control or hold sway over half the country — for many of the targeted killings. The insurgents, meanwhile, claim the Afghan intelligence service is carrying out these attacks so as to blame the Taliban.