An RFE/RL journalist was killed in the southern Afghan province of Helmand when a bomb attached to his vehicle exploded in what Afghanistan's presidency, the United Nations’ mission in the country, and Western governments have condemned as an attack on press freedom in the war-torn country.
Omer Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, told RFE/RL that a sticky bomb attached to Mohammad Ilyas Dayee's vehicle killed the journalist in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital.
Three other people were wounded in the attack, including Dayee's brother, another man, and a child, Zwak said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid neither denied nor accepted the militant group's involvement in the "incident," telling RFE/RL it would investigate.
The 33-year-old Dayee, who is survived by his daughter, worked for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, known locally as Radio Azadi.
"We are shocked and saddened by the loss of Mohammad Ilyas Dayee, a brave and dedicated colleague who never wavered in his determination to report the news from his native Helmand Province," said RFE/RL's acting President Daisy Sindelar.
"His killing is a cowardly, despicable act that devastates a young family and leaves Afghanistan deprived of a talented reporter who bore witness to the changes under way in his country. The rising threat of violence against journalists should deeply concern everyone invested in a secure and peaceful future for Afghanistan," she added.
Afghan presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi condemned Dayee's “assassination,” saying it was the work of “the enemies of freedom of expression and the media in Afghanistan” while President Ashraf Ghani himself said the government was "committed to preserving and expanding freedom of expression.”
The top U.S. diplomat in Kabul, Ross Wilson, “vehemently” condemned Dayee’s killing.
“This is another attack on the freedom of the press. These attacks on journalists must stop immediately,” he tweeted.
Violence and chaos have increased in Afghanistan in recent months even as government negotiators and the Taliban are meeting in Qatar to find an end to decades of relentless war in Afghanistan.
No breakthrough has been reported since the talks started in September.
The British Embassy said it was “shocked & saddened” by this “horrific” attack and called for an investigation, while the Danish embassy in Kabul said the “targeted killings” of journalists in Afghanistan is “unacceptable.”
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also condemned the killing, saying Afghanistan “needs a free press where journalists are safe and the rule of law is upheld.”
The attack follows a similar bomb attack in the capital, Kabul, on November 7 that killed a former popular TV news presenter for Afghanistan’s TOLO TV and two other civilians in the capital.
“My colleague and dear friend, Elyas Dayee, lost his life in a terrorist attack this morning,” Sami Mahdi, Radio Azadi bureau chief, wrote on Twitter.
“He was a gentleman. Always had signature smile. This is terrible news. Elyas, you will be remembered dearly,” Mahdi wrote.
In May, two employees of a privately owned television station, a reporter and a technician, were killed on the spot when a minibus carrying members of the TV channel’s staff was the target of a roadside bomb in Kabul.