Jalalabad – A female Afghan news anchor and activist was shot dead by assailants yesterday, her employer said, the second journalist killed in a month in Afghanistan.
Malalai Maiwand, in her 20s, was killed along with her driver Mohammad Tahir in the eastern city of Jalalabad as they travelled to work, said Enekaas TV, the private television channel she worked for.
The journalist, whose activist mother was also killed by unknown gunmen five years ago, had previously spoken out about the difficulties of being a female reporter under Afghanistan’s ultra-conservative patriarchal system.
Maiwand’s death comes as targeted killings of prominent figures becomes increasingly common as violence surges, despite ongoing peace talks between the government and the Taliban.
The Islamic State jihadist group claimed the murder.
In a statement on their Telegram channel, the group said Maiwand had been targeted because she was “loyal to the apostate Afghan regime.”
Over the years, IS has claimed several deadly attacks in Nangarhar province, which has also seen regular clashes between government forces and the Taliban.
Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor, and the local hospital both confirmed the deaths.
Late yesterday, Afghan authorities said the country’s intelligence agency had arrested those involved in the murder of Maiwand had been arrested.
“Those arrested have accepted that they attacked her,” Nangarhar governor Ziaulhaq Amarkhil wrote on his Facebook page.
Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian also said that two persons had been arrested.
Maiwand’s assassination triggered strong reactions from Afghan officials and foreign diplomats.
“Who has problems with women working in the Afghan society?” deputy spokeswoman to the president Fatima Murchal tweeted.
She added: “These coward culprits will not be forgiven, not even after peace.”
Daily life for women has improved from a nadir under the Taliban, but the United Nations noted there were widespread levels of violence against women in the war-ravaged nation.
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, a group that oversees journalists’ security in the country, warned the continued violence was threatening to undo years of progress.
“If the killing of journalists does not stop, Afghanistan will lose one of its greatest achievements which is press freedom,” the committee tweeted and called for an investigation.
Top US envoy in Kabul Ross Wilson condemned the “assassination” and called for the violence to stop.
President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi also condemned Maiwand’s murder.
“The terrorist attack on Malalai Miwand is shocking and utterly despicable,” Sediqqi tweeted. “The current senseless violence against our people must end.”
The murder of Maiwand comes just weeks after Radio Liberty reporter Aliyas Dayee was killed in a car bomb attack in Lashkar Gah.
Human Rights Watch said Dayee had previously been threatened by the Taliban.
Yesterday, Arian said that a suspect had been arrested in connection with Dayee’s murder.
A former television presenter in Kabul, Yama Siawash, was killed in a similar car bomb attack near his home last month.
No group has so far claimed the murders of Dayee and Siawash.
Afghan forces are battling an increase in violence, much of it unleashed by the Taliban as they attempt to gain leverage in peace talks in Qatar, which opened in September. – AFP