The Haunting Legacy of a Photojournalist Killed in Kabul Attack on Freedom of the Press

A look at the work of Shah Marai, an AFP photographer killed in Kabul

Reuters
An Afghan woman holds her baby as she and supporters attend the election rally of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in Jalalabad, February 18, 2014.
An Afghan woman holds her baby as she and supporters attend the election rally of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah in Jalalabad, February 18, 2014.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP

The pictures show journalists killed in the second of two explosions that rocked Kabul during the morning rush hour. They were taken by Reuters photographer Omar Sobhani, 10 or 15 seconds after a suicide bomber, apparently targeting members of the media, detonated his explosives. 

In one image, a cameraman from Al Jazeera can be seen kneeling wounded against the kerb, while nearby a journalist from Afghanistan's Radio Azadi is being helped by an old man who was passing by when the blast went off.

Afghan journalists are seen after a second blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 30, 2018
Afghan journalists are seen after a second blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 30, 2018Credit: REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File photo

Sobhani, who began working for Reuters as a driver and fixer in 2002 and has been a photographer since 2007, was among the journalists who had raced to cover the initial explosion on Monday morning in the Shashdarak area of central Kabul, not far from the U.S. embassy.

"I had been waiting with other journalists to cover an earlier blast. It was a normal scene. It was about 8:30 in the morning, there were security forces guarding the site of the first blast and quite a few people going to work and we were just waiting with other journalists," he says.

"Then we heard a huge bang just behind me. I survived because I was standing in front of a concrete pillar that shielded me from the force of the explosion, but I saw all my friends and colleagues on the ground and a lot of them were dead with a few wounded - you can still see the smoke from the explosion in the pictures."

Afghanistan's interior ministry said the suicide bomber who detonated the second blast had posed as a media worker, showing a press card to security forces and standing among the gathered journalists before blowing himself up.

Sobhani was slightly wounded, but was able to quickly capture some images of the scene before withdrawing to seek help.

"I was shocked but I could see there was nothing to be done and I shot some pictures immediately before leaving," he said. "I could feel some pain and there was some shrapnel in my shoulder, which was taken out at the hospital."

Eight of the journalists were from Afghan outlets: two reporters from the Mashal TV, a cameraman and a reporter working for 1TV, three reporters from Radio Azadi and one from Tolo News, according to the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee.

The French news agency Agence France-Presse said its chief photographer in Afghanistan, Shah Marai, was killed.

Shah Marai sits at his desk at the AFP office in Kabul on June 17, 2010.
Shah Marai sits at his desk at the AFP office in Kabul on June 17, 2010.Credit: ED JONES/AFP
An Afghan boy walks with balloons for sale on a cold winter's day in Kabul, February 7, 2013.
An Afghan boy walks with balloons for sale on a cold winter's day in Kabul, February 7, 2013.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
An Afghan boy carries a sheep on his shoulders at a livestock market ahead of the sacrificial Eid al-Adha festival in Kabul, September 22, 2015.
An Afghan boy carries a sheep on his shoulders at a livestock market ahead of the sacrificial Eid al-Adha festival in Kabul, September 22, 2015.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
A Hazara Afghan woman walks past the ruins of the ancient Buddha statues that once stood in the city of Bamiyan, August 1, 2010.
A Hazara Afghan woman walks past the ruins of the ancient Buddha statues that once stood in the city of Bamiyan, August 1, 2010.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
Afghan visitors ride a fairground ride at the Park Shahar or City Park in Kabul, September 6, 2017.
Afghan visitors ride a fairground ride at the Park Shahar or City Park in Kabul, September 6, 2017.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
An Afghan health worker administers the polio vaccine to a child during a vaccination campaign in Kabul, February 28, 2017.
An Afghan health worker administers the polio vaccine to a child during a vaccination campaign in Kabul, February 28, 2017.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
Afghan villagers are pictured near the scene in the landslide-hit Aab Bareek village in Argo district of Badakhshan province, May 5, 2014.
Afghan villagers are pictured near the scene in the landslide-hit Aab Bareek village in Argo district of Badakhshan province, May 5, 2014.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
An Afghan resident looks through a broken window at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, January 26, 2014.
An Afghan resident looks through a broken window at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, January 26, 2014.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
Afghan men hold chains as they wait to take part in ritual self-flagellation to celebrate the Muslim festival of Ashura, at a mosque in Kabul, January 15, 2008.
Afghan men hold chains as they wait to take part in ritual self-flagellation to celebrate the Muslim festival of Ashura, at a mosque in Kabul, January 15, 2008.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
French soldiers of the first regiment of marine artillery fire a mortar at their base during an exercise in Surobi district of Kabul province, March 12, 2012.
French soldiers of the first regiment of marine artillery fire a mortar at their base during an exercise in Surobi district of Kabul province, March 12, 2012.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
Afghan National Army (ANA) officers march during a graduation ceremony at the Ghazi Military Training Centre in Kabul, March 31, 2011.
Afghan National Army (ANA) officers march during a graduation ceremony at the Ghazi Military Training Centre in Kabul, March 31, 2011.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
An Afghan man casts his vote at a local polling station in Kabul, April 5, 2014.
An Afghan man casts his vote at a local polling station in Kabul, April 5, 2014.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
Afghan commandos walk down a road near the Kabul police headquarters building after a clash between Afghanistan forces and Taliban fighters in Kabul, January 21, 2013.
Afghan commandos walk down a road near the Kabul police headquarters building after a clash between Afghanistan forces and Taliban fighters in Kabul, January 21, 2013.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
An Afghan father carries his daughter as rain clouds gather in Kabul, April 19, 2015.
An Afghan father carries his daughter as rain clouds gather in Kabul, April 19, 2015.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani jump to cross a ditch as they leave after a gathering on the outskirts of Kunduz province, north of Kabul, March 19, 2014.
supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani jump to cross a ditch as they leave after a gathering on the outskirts of Kunduz province, north of Kabul, March 19, 2014.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP
Afghan children play football in a field in Kabul, November 23, 2014.
Afghan children play football in a field in Kabul, November 23, 2014.Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP