KABUL: A bomb exploded on Saturday during a press award ceremony in northern Afghanistan, killing at least one person and wounding eight others, mostly journalists, local authorities said.
The blast took place at the Tabian Farhang center in Mazar-e Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, as dozens of journalists gathered for the award event organized by the Afghan Voice Agency.
“At least eight people, including five journalists and three children, were wounded and one guard was martyred,” Mohammed Asif Waziri, Balkh police spokesman, told reporters, as security forces cordoned off the area.
Those who attended the event feared that the number of casualties would increase.
Sayed Shabir Mahmoodi, foreign relations director of the Afghan Voice Agency in Balkh province, said the bomb exploded inside the event’s venue and unofficial death toll estimates suggested that more people have died.
“Local hospital personnel in Mazar-e Sharif said that three people were killed and over 40 others wounded in the explosion,” he said.
Dozens of Afghan journalists have been killed in attacks in the past few years, but Saturday’s blast was the first such incident since the Taliban took control of the country in 2021, following the withdrawal of US forces.
About 60 percent of media professionals have already left the country since 2021, according to Reporters Without Borders data, and the attack will further aggravate the media situation in Afghanistan, Hafizullah Barakai, head of the Afghanistan Journalists’ Union, told Arab News.
“This will create a negative environment for media persons, and it will definitely affect the journalists’ work and lives,” he said.
“We see such violence against journalists going on for the past few years across Afghanistan. I urge the authorities to address journalists’ safety.”
Shir Ahmad Usmani, a reporter with Pajhwok Afghan News, said he was in shock.
“It will of course affect the reporters’ work, add more difficulties,” he said.
No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came two days after a suicide bomber killed Balkh governor Mohammed Dawood Muzamil.
The attack was claimed by a regional affiliate of Daesh known as Islamic State Khorasan Province, or Daesh-K. Muzamil was a key figure within the Taliban behind raids against the group and had spearheaded anti-Daesh operations.