A coordinated double suicide bombing hit central Kabul, killing 25 people and wounding 45 others.
Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai confirmed that four policemen were killed, while an Afghan media watchdog, the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC), confirmed that nine journalists were also killed.
The AJSC said that five journalists were reportedly wounded in the attacks. Agence France-Presse (AFP) confirmed that its chief photographer Shah Marai, a journalist from 1TV and one from Tolo News were among the dead.
A first bomb was detonated by an assailant on a motorcycle and left at least four dead and five injured, according to the Interior Ministry.
A second explosion came minutes after the first targeted reporters at the scene, Stanekzai told media.
“The bomber disguised himself as a journalist and detonated himself among the crowd,” he said.
A security source also confirmed both were suicide blasts.
The militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement issued via its propaganda agency Amaq. It claimed that two suicide bombers had targeted the Kabul headquarters of Afghanistan’s intelligence services.
Shah Marai: from driver to chief photographer
Shah Marai joined media as a driver in 1996, the year the Taliban seized power, and began taking pictures on the side, covering stories including the US invasion in 2001.
In 2002 he became a full-time photo stringer, rising through the ranks to become chief photographer in the bureau.
He leaves behind six children, including a newborn daughter.
“This is a devastating blow, for the brave staff of our close-knit Kabul bureau and the entire agency,” the agency’s global news director Michele Leridon said.
“We can only honour the strength, courage, and generosity of a photographer who covered often traumatic, horrific events with sensitivity and consummate professionalism.”
Separately, a BBC reporter was killed in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, the broadcaster said, hours after twin blasts in Kabul marked the deadliest day for journalists in the war-torn country since the Taliban’s fall in 2001.
“It is with great sadness that the BBC can confirm the death of BBC Afghan reporter Ahmad Shah following an attack earlier today,” BBC World Service director Jamie Angus said in a statement.
The attack took place in the restive eastern province of Khost, which borders Pakistan.
The BBC did not provide details about how Ahmad Shah was killed.
The 29-year-old had worked for the BBC Afghan service for more than a year, Angus said. It broadcasts in Pashto and Persian in Afghanistan, the two most commonly spoken languages.
Ahmad Shah had “already established himself as a highly capable journalist who was a respected and popular member of the team”, Angus said.
“This is a devastating loss and I send my sincere condolences to Ahmad Shah’s friends and family and the whole BBC Afghan team. We are doing all we can to support his family at this very difficult time.
Spate of deadly attacks
The latest attacks come days after the Taliban kicked off their spring offensive in an apparent rejection of calls for the militants to take up the Afghan government’s offer of peace talks.
During the announcement, the group vowed to target US forces and “their intelligence agents” as well as their “internal supporters”.
The blasts follow several bloody attacks across the country, including a bombing that targeted a voter registration centre in Kabul that killed at least 57 people last week.
The Taliban said the offensive was partly a response to US President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan announced last August, which gave US forces more leeway to go after insurgents.
President Ashraf Ghani’s government is under pressure on multiple fronts this year as it prepares to hold October’s long-delayed elections while its security forces struggle to get the upper hand on the battlefield and prevent civilian casualties.
Officials have acknowledged that security is a major concern because the Taliban and other militant groups control or contest large swathes of the country.
A series of attacks on voter registration centres across the war-torn has deterred many Afghans from signing up to participate in the October 20 ballot.
Some Western and Afghan officials expect 2018 to be a particularly bloody year.
General John Nicholson, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, told Tolo TV last month that he expected the Taliban to carry out more suicide attacks this fighting season.