The Washington Post

Journalist’s killing in Afghanistan raises fears of possible new trend endangering foreigners

Afghan men walk at the scene where a Swedish journalist was fatally shot in Kabul. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

— A Swedish journalist was shot and killed Tuesday in Kabul in a brazen attack that many worry reflects the growing danger for foreigners in Afghanistan’s capital.

Nils Horner, 52, was shot in a neighborhood populated by Western non-governmental organizations, embassies and journalists. It is the same area where 21 people, mostly foreigners, were killed when a Lebanese restaurant was attacked in January.

Both attacks sent shock waves through the international community in Kabul. Horner’s killing, in broad daylight, was particularly disturbing to Western journalists who do much of their work beyond the blast walls of military bases and diplomatic compounds.

According to Afghan police, Horner was conducting an interview on the street when two armed men shot him in the head. “Police are continuing their efforts to arrest the culprits of the incident,” police said in a statement.

Horner, the South Asia correspondent for the Swedish radio station Sveriges Radio, had previously been based in New York and London, according to the station’s Web site. He had recently arrived in Kabul.

Swedish journalist Nils Horner, photographed in Stockholm in August. (Mattias Ahlm/Sveriges Radio via AP)

No one has been arrested, and the Taliban have not claimed responsibility for the attack.

He was “a legend,” said Swedish journalist Terese Cristiansson, “one of the best we have ever had.”

In January, Western expatriates here had hoped the deadly attack on the Lebanese restaurant would prove to be an aberration. Typically, during the course of this 12-year war, the Taliban has chosen to target military bases or high-profile diplomatic installations rather than restaurants or journalists.

But the January attack appeared to be a tactical shift. Among the dead were three Americans, including two employees of the American University of Afghanistan. Three U.N. staff members were also killed.

Horner’s killing Tuesday led many to worry that a trend was beginning to emerge that could keep NGO workers from meeting their Afghan counterparts and hinder journalists’ efforts to report thoroughly on the country’s upcoming elections and ongoing U.S. withdrawal.

The elections, in particular, are expected to prompt an escalation in violence as insurgents attempt to disrupt the Afghan political process. It remains unclear how successful they will be at penetrating the security infrastructure that surrounds Kabul.

Meanwhile, Horner’s friends Tuesday celebrated the life of a journalist who loved his work.

“The only thing he always wanted and talked about was being in the field,” Cristiansson said.

Sayed Salahuddin contributed to this report.

Kevin Sieff has been The Post’s bureau chief in Nairobi since 2014. He served previously as the bureau chief in Kabul and had covered the U.S. -Mexico border.


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