Afghan journalist working for US media dies in car bomb attack

A car bombing in the volatile southern Afghan province of Helmand on Thursday (12 November) killed a journalist working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Afghan-language Radio Azadi.

Afghan officials said the killed journalist, Elyas Dayee, was travelling with his brother to their press club in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, when a “magnetic” explosive device ripped through their car, injuring his brother, a fellow journalist, and two others.

Day had been reporting from the Afghan branch of the United States Government’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty external broadcast service in Helmand for more than a decade.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the early morning blast in Lashkar Gah, which Taliban rebels have been attacking for nearly a month.

Radio Asadi’s Kabul bureau chief Sami Mahdi tweeted, “My colleague and dear friend Ilyas Day lost his life this morning in a terrorist attack in Lashkar Gah. He was a gentleman and always wore his signature smile. This is terrible news. Ilyas, you will be lovingly missed by all.”

The Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the parent agency of other U.S. government-funded media networks, the U.S. General Authority for Global Media (USAGM), have also condemned the attack. USAGM CEO Michael Pack said, “This is a cowardly act and an attack on the universal principles of free speech” and “We extend our deepest condolences to Day’s family and call for the perpetrators to be tracked down. “

Radio Asadi’s radio and Internet programmes are said to reach more than 60 per cent of the Afghan population.

The President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, condemned the death of Daei as the work of Afghanistan’s “enemies” to “cover up their heinous crimes and silence the media.”

The U.S. government has also condemned the death of the Radio Asadi journalist. Ross Wilson, Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, tweeted, “This is yet another attack on press freedom. These attacks on journalists must stop immediately.”

Last Saturday, a similar magnetic explosive device attack in Kabul killed three senior officials at the Central Bank of Afghanistan, including a former prominent TV political show host.

No group has claimed responsibility for that attack, but government officials believe it was the Taliban who carried it out.

Conflict-ridden Afghanistan continues to be the deadliest country in the world for journalists.

The Afghan capital, Kabul, and other parts of the country have experienced a wave of unexplained, high-profile assassinations in recent weeks, with educators, activists, journalists and government officials all being targeted for killing.

The Government of President Ghani has faced increasing pressure from critics who claim that it has failed to take security and intelligence measures to stop the violence.