David Gilkey, 50, died from severe burns he sustained when the convoy he was travelling in came under attack, according to his employer, the U.S. public broadcaster National Public Radio. His Afghan colleague, Zabihullah Tamanna, and the Afghan army driver of the vehicle were also killed. The journalists were on assignment for NPR at the time, the broadcaster said in its first account of the deaths. They died on their first day of being embedded with the Afghan army.
They were covering intense fighting between the Afghan military and Taliban fighters in and around Marjah, a Taliban stronghold that had once been taken by American forces. The NPR journalists were being escorted to cover the situation in Marjah when their convoy came under heavy fire. Two other NPR journalists traveling in a separate vehicle in the convoy were not injured.
An NPR investigation one year after Gilkey and Tamanna’s death suggested that the convoy had been specifically targeted after the attackers were alerted to the presence of Americans in the area. It was originally reported that the vehicle Gilkey and Tamanna were in was hit by a rocket-propelled-grenade, but NPR’s investigation raised doubts. Aside from the burns, the report said Gilkey did not have other injuries that would “indicate close proximity to a blast.”
Gilkey was a highly experienced, award-winning photographer: In its reporting on his death, NPR said he had covered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa, an earthquake in Haiti, famine in Somalia, and the Ebola epidemic in Liberia.