10 killed as gun battle rages at TV station in Afghanistan

10 killed as gun battle rages at TV station in Afghanistan

Afghan security forces arrive at the site of an attack in Jalalabad city, eastern Afghanistan, on Wednesday. — Reuters

KABUL — Gunmen stormed the local headquarters of Afghanistan’s state media in the eastern Nangarhar province on Wednesday, setting off clashes that killed 10 people, officials said.

Inamullah Miakhial, a spokesman for the provincial hospital in Nangarhar, said four state TV employees and two police officers were among those killed, and that 18 other people were wounded.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said four attackers were killed in the assault, which began with an explosion, followed by a gun battle with Afghan security forces.

The state media building is close to the governor’s compound and a police station. Video footage from Jalalabad showed hundreds of Afghan security forces fanning out across the city, where shops were closed.

No insurgent group has so far claimed responsibility for the raid in eastern Nangarhar province, a hotbed of Daesh (the so-called IS) militants, where the US military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb last month in an unprecedented attack.

“There were four attackers — one blew himself up at the gate, killing the guard. Three others entered the building but were killed after our security forces fought them for four hours,” Nangarhar Governor Gulab Mangal said.

A health worker said that many of those brought to hospital suffered gunshot wounds.

An RTA photographer said he fled the building as soon as the gunfight erupted, but many of his colleagues were stuck inside until the assailants were killed.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, three civilians were killed in separate bomb blasts, according to officials.

Qais Qadri, spokesman for the governor of eastern Kapisa province, said two civilians were killed and two others were wounded in a bomb blast late Tuesday in the Nijrab district.

Samim Khpolwak, spokesman for the governor of the southern Kandahar province, said a civilian was killed and 10 people were wounded, including three policemen, in a double bombing in the provincial capital. No one immediately claimed either attack. The Taliban have stepped up their attacks since announcing their spring offensive last month.

Wednesday’s attack underscores the growing dangers faced by media workers in Afghanistan as the security situation worsens.

The country suffered its deadliest year on record for journalists in 2016, according to the Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee (AJSC), adding that the country is the second most dangerous for reporters in the world after Syria.

As least 13 journalists were killed last year, AJSC said, claiming that the Taliban was behind at least ten of the deaths.

In January last year, seven employees of popular TV channel Tolo, which is often critical of the insurgents, were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul in what the militant group said was revenge for “spreading propaganda” against them.

It was the first major attack on an Afghan media organization since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001. — Agencies