By Euan McKirdy and Ehsan Popalzai
Monday April 30, 2018, Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN)A number of journalists, including a senior AFP photographer, have died in a suicide attack in Kabul as a bomber disguised as a fellow cameraman detonated a second bomb at the site of an earlier explosion.
At least 29 people died in the two explosions on Monday morning in the Afghan capital Kabul, according to government officials.
The first blast took place at around at 8 a.m. local time in the Shashdarak area of the city, where the US embassy and Afghan government buildings are located, prompting journalists to rush to the scene.
The second explosion came as the attacker, posing as a cameraman, detonated explosives as journalists huddled around the scene, Kabul City Police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai told CNN.
Eight journalists, including at least one woman, from different news media outlets died in the attack, according to Najib Sharifi, director of the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee.
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Sharifi had earlier reported that nine journalists had died, but later revised the figure. He did not elaborate on the number of injured press.
A further 45 people were injured in the two incidents, and have been taken to city hospitals, according to Ministry of Public Health spokesman Wahid Majroh.
Star photographer killed
French news agency Agence France Presse confirmed that its photographer Shah Marai was among the dead.
The agency said Marai joined AFP as a driver in 1996, the year the Taliban seized power, and in 2002 he became a full-time photo stringer, rising through the ranks to become chief photographer in the bureau.
AFP Global News Director Michele Leridon released a statement on the death of the long-serving photographer.
“This is a devastating blow, for the brave staff of our close-knit Kabul bureau and the entire agency. Shah Marai was a treasured colleague who spent more than 15 years documenting the tragic conflict in Afghanistan for AFP.”
He leaves behind six children, including a newborn daughter, AFP said.
In an essay entitled “When Hope is Gone,” written in 2016 — before the birth of his sixth child — he acknowledged the danger of living in the city with his young family.
“I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five and they spend their time cooped up inside the house.
“Every morning as I go to the office and every evening when I return home, all I think of are cars that can be booby-trapped, or of suicide bombers coming out of a crowd. I can’t take the risk.”
The site of the explosion was close to NATO’s Afghan headquarters, the US embassy and Afghan government buildings, including the Presidential palace, the Defense Ministry and the headquarters of Afghanistan’s intelligence services.
US Ambassador John Bass condemned the attack.
“I condemn today’s terrible Kabul attack (and) reaffirm our commitment (to) stand with the Afghan people in their fight for peace (and) security across Afghanistan. We mourn for those murdered, including the brave journalists who stand for truth in the face of violence,” he wrote on Twitter.
Spate of attacks
Afghanistan has seen a spate of attacks in recent weeks. Just days ago at least six people were killed, including two Afghan soldiers, when a car bomb exploded in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province.
On April 22, a suicide blast killed 57 people — including at least five children — and wounded over 100 more at a voter registration center. That attack was preceded by a car bombing in southern Afghanistan in which at least 13 people were killed and 35 others injured.
The incident took place outside a sports stadium in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. A wrestling match was taking place inside the stadium at the time of the attack.
The uptick in violence comes despite reports around six weeks ago that suggested some factions of the Taliban had expressed interested in pursuing peace talks with the Afghan government.
Those reports came on the heels of an Afghan government announcement in February that it would be willing to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party as part of a potential ceasefire agreement with the Islamist militant group.