Noted Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed on Thursday night in a clash between the Afghan special forces and Taliban attackers. Tolo News, a leading news channel of Kabul has reported that Mr Siddiqui, working for Reuters news agency, was covering the clashes betweeen the two sides in Kandahar over the last few days and he died in Spin Boldak district, which has a contentious international border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has taken up the killing at the UN Security Council.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in his message of condolence, expressed solidarity with the media and said his government is committed to upholding freedom of expression.
“I am deeply saddened with the shocking reports that Reuters photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed while covering the Taliban atrocities in Kandahar,” he said. Reuters has reported that Mr Siddiqui was in the main market of Spin Boldak when he was caught in crossfire.
Tolo News has reported that a senior commander of the Afghan special forces Sediq Karzai too was killed in the same incident.
Sources have informed that the mortal remains of Mr. Siddiqui was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Indian Embassy in Kabul is coordinating with the Afghan authorities and ICRC to return them to his family. Speaking at a briefing on protection of civilians in armed conflicts, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who is currently in New York took up the issue and said, “India condemns the killing of Danish Siddiqui while he was on an assignment in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I extend our sincerest condolences to his bereaved family.”
Reuters President Michael Friedenberg and Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni said in a statement, “We are urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region.”
The news agency has reported that Mr Siddiqui was injured by shrapnel earlier and was recovering from the injury. In a statement, the Ambassador of Afghanistan to India Farid Mamundzay conveyed his condolences to the Siddiqui family and Reuters.
“Deeply disturbed by the sad news of the killing of a friend, Danish Siddiqui in Kandahar last night. The Indian journalist and winner of Pulitzer Prize was embedded with Afghan security forces. I met him 2 weeks ago before his departure to Kabul,” said Ambassador Mamundzay.
Mr. Siddiqui was travelling in an armoured Humvee with Afghan soldiers and he had shared videos over the past few days that showed the vehicle came under attack on several occasions. In his last report filed on July 13 from Kandahar under highly difficult circumstances, Mr Siddiqui had recorded the experience of Afghan commandos who conducted a raid to save a kidnapped policeman. The border crossing in Spin Boldak had hit the headlines after the Taliban reportedly occupied it temporarily. In response, Afghan forces launched attacks which soon escalated into a war of words between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Reporters of news channel France24 said that the injured Taliban fighters were being treated in Pakistani hospitals.
Mr. Siddiqui was known for his compassionate photographic coverage of current developments in South Asia. In recent years his photographs of the Rohingya refugees who were displaced by the Myanmar military from the Rakhine provice, drew global attention to the plight of the displaced community that is currently living in camps in Bangladesh. The photographs of the Rohinyga refugees was recognised with a Pulitzer Prize.
Earlier this year, he used innovative methods like drone photography to capture the vast scale of the second wave of COVID-19 in India. His photographs that showed funeral pyres buring in open spaces drew global attention to the tragedy that India faced during March-May 2021.
In a message of condolence, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur shared an image captured by Mr Siddiqui during his assignment covering the Rohingya tragedy.
“Danish Siddiqui leaves behind an extraordinary body of work. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography and was embedded with the Afghan Forces in Kandahar. Sharing one of his pictures below. Sincere condolences,” said Mr Thakur. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also expressed his condolences and praised Danish Siddiqui’s “commitment to humanity”.