Nils Horner (AFP)
Nils Horner (AFP)

British-Swedish journalist shot dead in Afghan capital

New York, March 11, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s fatal shooting of an international journalist in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, and calls on authorities to ensure the perpetrators are held responsible. The shooting comes amid mounting risks for foreigners in Kabul. 

Two unidentified men approached Nils Horner, 51, in Kabul’s diplomatic district this morning, according to a New York Times report citing Col. Najibullah Samsour, a senior police official. One of the assailants shot Horner in the head at close range, and then both men fled the scene, the report said.

“This fatal attack on a journalist illustrates the growing insecurity in the Afghan capital and the apparent growing hostility toward foreigners working there,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “News organizations and journalists should take into account that covering Kabul has become a dangerous assignment.”

Horner, a Hong Kong-based journalist who held both British and Swedish citizenship, was a reporter for Sveriges Radio, Sweden’s national public broadcaster. Horner had worked with Sveriges Radio since 2001 and had traveled to Afghanistan in the past, including to document the fall of the Taliban in 2001. He had also covered the Iraq War in 2003 and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, according to Agence France-Presse.

News reports said Horner had arrived in Kabul a few days earlier. At the time of his death, he was interviewing local security guards about the survivor of a January attack on a popular Lebanese restaurant, Taverna du Liban, in Kabul. At least 21 people, including 13 foreigners, were killed when a suicide bomb exploded outside the restaurant. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the January attack and said they had specifically sought to kill Westerners, reports said.

Horner was shot in the capital’s affluent Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, where many foreign embassies and major news organizations are based.  Since the January attack, many Westerners who had freely traveled around Kabul have either chosen to limit their social activities or have been forced to do so by new security restrictions put in place by employers, the Times report said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the shooting. It is unclear if the gunmen had specifically targeted Horner, if they had mistaken him for someone else, or if they were simply looking to target a foreigner, reports said.

The attack comes ahead of a scheduled presidential election on April 5 to replace Hamid Karzai, who is serving his second and last term as president.