KABUL: At least one person was killed and eight others were injured, the majority of whom were journalists, after a bomb went off during a press award ceremony in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, local authorities said.

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At the time of the explosion, dozens of journalists were gathered at the Tabian Farhang center in Mazar-e Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, for an award ceremony hosted by the Afghan Voice Agency.

Balkh police spokesman Mohammed Asif Waziri said to reporters, “at least eight people were wounded, including five journalists and three children, and one guard was martyred.” Security forces had already cordoned off the area.

Members of the audience were concerned that the number of fatalities would rise.

According to Sayed Shabir Mahmoodi, director of foreign relations for the Afghan Voice Agency in the province of Balkh, the bomb went off inside the venue, and unconfirmed reports indicate that many more people may have been killed than the official toll indicates.

According to “local hospital personnel in Mazar-e Sharif,” the blast killed three people and injured more than 40.

Although dozens of journalists have been killed in attacks in Afghanistan over the past few years, Saturday’s blast was the first since the Taliban took power in 2021 after the United States withdrew its forces.

According to data from Reporters Without Borders, roughly 60% of media professionals in Afghanistan have fled the country since 2021; Hafizullah Barakai, head of the Afghanistan Journalists’ Union, told Arab News that this attack would only make matters worse.

He warned that this would have a chilling effect on journalists’ ability to do their jobs and their personal lives.

Over the past few years, violence against the media has been a widespread problem in Afghanistan. Concerning the safety of journalists, I strongly urge action from the proper authorities.

The reporter for Pajhwok Afghan News, Shir Ahmad Usmani, expressed his astonishment.
It will, of course, affect the reporters’ work, he said, adding that it will make things more difficult.

Despite the fact that this attack followed the suicide bombing that took the life of Balkh’s governor, Mohammed Dawood Muzamil, two days prior, no group has yet claimed responsibility.

Islamic State Khorasan Province (Daesh-K) claimed responsibility for the attack, and Muzamil was a prominent figure in the Taliban who had led raids against Daesh.