An Afghan police officer inspects vehicles at a checkpoint in Kabul on August 6, 2017. An Afghan journalist was recently killed when he was shot by two unidentified men in Khost. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

Afghan journalist killed; Islamic State affiliate claims responsibility

March 18, 2019 1:40 PM ET

New York, March 18, 2019 -- The Committee to Protect Journalists strongly condemns the killing of Afghan journalist Sultan Mahmoud Khairkhwah and calls on authorities to investigate his killing and improve the safety of journalists in the country.

Khairkhwah, a reporter for the privately owned, Khost-based Zhman TV and radio broadcaster, was shot by unknown men in Khost city, in eastern Afghanistan, in the morning of March 15 and died of his injuries that evening, according to news reports.

The Associated Press reported that two men on a motorcycle shot Khairkhwah while he was in his car. An affiliate of the Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, but did not give a reason for targeting the journalist, according to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

"Afghanistan was the deadliest country for journalists in 2018, and this year will be just as dangerous if authorities don't thoroughly investigate the killing of Sultan Mahmoud Khairkhwah, determine the motive, and bring the killers to justice, " said Steven Butler, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. "Afghan officials must take immediate steps to improve safety measures for journalists working in the country, including those targeted by non-state actors."

It is unclear whether Khairkhwah had faced threats related to his work, Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar of local press freedom group NAI told CPJ.

Last week, journalist Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi survived an assassination attempt in Helmand province, after a bomb was attached to his car, CPJ reported. At least 13 journalists were killed in relation to their work in Afghanistan in 2018, making it the deadliest country worldwide, according to CPJ research.

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