KABUL: A gunman shot dead a Swedish-British journalist at close range in central Kabul on Tuesday in an unexplained daylight murder that shocked foreign residents living in a city on high alert ahead of elections.
Taleban militants denied responsibility for the shooting in an upmarket district of the Afghan capital close to a restaurant where the insurgents killed 21 people, including 13 foreigners, in an attack in January.
Sweden’s Ambassador Peter Semneby, identified the dead man as Nils Horner, 51, a journalist for Swedish national radio.
“He had British nationality in addition to his Swedish nationality. His family has been informed,” Semneby told AFP.
Police said the attackers escaped the scene on foot and had not been caught after the assassination-style killing.
A witness described hearing a single gunshot fired before seeing Horner fall to the ground, and a doctor at Kabul’s emergency hospital said he was dead on arrival.
“There were two guys who ran away. They were perhaps in their 20s and security guards chased them as they ran away,” the witness told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Security forces cordoned off the street, where blood could be seen on the ground.
Horner, hired by Sveriges Radio in 2001, was an experienced reporter who had been in Afghanistan to witness the fall of the Taleban in 2001 and in Iraq during the war in 2003. He also covered the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
“This is one of the worst days in the history of Sveriges Radio,” said station chief Cilla Benko.
“Nils was one of our absolutely best and most experienced correspondents… He was in Kabul three to four times a year. He knew the town and had carried out security checks.
“He was shot in the back of the head in an area not considered to be a risk zone.”
According to journalists in Kabul, Hong Kong-based Horner arrived in Afghanistan on Sunday and had planned to stay about a week or 10 days.
“Among Swedish journalists, he was a legend,” Johan Nylander, a Swedish freelance journalist based in Hong Kong, told AFP.
“For many years, he didn’t even have an apartment. Hong Kong was the first place he put down his suitcase for half a decade.”