Afghan journalist wounded in bombing; 10 troops killed

March 13, 2019
FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2019 file photo released by Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Special Envoy of the Qatar Foreign Minister for Counterterrorism and Mediation in conflicts resolution, Dr. Mutlaq Bin Majid Al-Qahtanithe, mediates talks between the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Deputy Commander of the Taliban Movement for Political Affairs, Mulla Abdul Ghani Berader, in an undisclosed place in Doha, Qatar. Pakistan’s foreign minister said Tuesday March 12, 2019, in a news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Islamabad, that “progress has been made” at ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and the U.S., which have stretched over two weeks in Qatar. (Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP, File)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan journalist who has long received death threats was seriously wounded in a bombing in the country’s south, while in the western province of Farah, the Taliban stormed an army checkpoint and killed 10 soldiers, officials said Wednesday.

Also in Farah, a local official was gunned down outside his home on Wednesday, a councilman said.

The attacks were the latest violence in war-torn Afghanistan even as the Taliban and the U.S. concluded another round of negotiations held in Qatar, with both sides reporting progress in the talks.

Meanwhile, Afghan officials reported a friendly fire incident Wednesday in southern Uruzgan province involving U.S. and Afghan forces and leading to the death of five Afghan troops. The casualties have not been confirmed.

The U.S. military said only that it was responding to incoming fire on Afghan and American forces on the ground near Tarin Kot in Uruzgan province and conducted a precision airstrike but gave no other details or information on any casualties.

Afghan radio and TV journalist Nesar Ahmad Ahmadi was wounded when a sticky bomb attached to his car exploded as he was heading to work in Helmand province. Omar Zwak, the governor’s spokesman, said the attack happened on Tuesday in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital.

Ahmadi had a leg wound and was transferred to Kabul for further treatment, the spokesman said. He runs the Sabahoon radio station and is also a reporter for Sabahoon TV in Helmand.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Helmand, the Taliban heartland.

Afghan journalists are often targeted in attacks. In January, the Afghan Journalist Safety Committee said in its annual report that it had recorded a total of 121 cases of violence against journalists and media workers in 2018. It also said 17 journalists and media workers were killed last year, once again placing Afghanistan as the world’s most dangerous country for journalists.

The International Federation of Journalists and its Afghan affiliate condemned the attack on Ahmadi in Helmand and called for an immediate investigation.

In the attack in western Farah province, the Taliban stormed an army checkpoint along the main highway in Gulistan district on Tuesday, killing 10 soldiers, said Abdul Samad Salehi, a member of the provincial council.

Reinforcements were sent and the area was retaken and brought under control but five or six other troops remain missing, Salehi added. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in Farah.

On Wednesday, also in Farah, Mohammad Salim Farahi was shot and killed near his home in the provincial capital, Farah city. He was an engineer and the head of the public works department, said Salehi.

In the incident in Uruzgan, the Afghan Defense Ministry confirmed there was a firefight involving U.S. and Afghan troops but couldn’t provide any details. A ministry spokesman, Col. Qais Mangal, said there was “a report of a misunderstanding between the U.S. and Afghan forces” but that exact details of what happened were not immediately known.

Mohammad Karim Karimi, deputy head of the Uruzgan provincial council, said U.S. forces had mistakenly carried out an airstrike at an Afghan base near Tarin Kot, the provincial capital, followed by a firefight that left the five Afghans dead and 10 wounded.

“The strikes were conducted after Afghan and U.S. forces came under effective small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire and requested air support in self-defense,” the U.S. military said about the incident. “We are operating in a complex environment where enemy fighters do not wear uniforms and use stolen military vehicles to attack government forces.”

Despite intensified negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban to end the 17-year was in Afghanistan, the insurgents have been carrying out near-daily attacks across the country, mainly targeting the government and security forces and causing staggering casualties.

The nearly two weeks of talks in Qatar produced two draft agreements between the Taliban and the U.S. government on a “withdrawal timeline and effective counterterrorism measures,” American envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wrote on Twitter.

The Taliban also issued a statement, saying “progress was achieved” on both of those issues. However, the Taliban have consistently refused to talk with the government in Kabul, describing it as a U.S. puppet.

The talks concluded late Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately clear when the next round of talks would take place.