Hours after the news of Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui’s demise in Afghanistan shocked the country, the Taliban on Thursday denied a role in his death. The slain journalist’s body was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) around 5 pm (local time) today.
Denying that Taliban had a hand in Siddiqui’s killing, its spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said, “We are not aware during whose firing the journalist was killed. We do not know how he died.”
In an exclusive interview to CNN-News18, Mujahid said, “Any journalist entering the war zone should inform us. We will take proper care of that particular individual.”
Expressing regret over the Siddique’s death, he said, “We are sorry for Indian journalist Danish Siddiqui’s death.”
“We regret that journalists are entering war zone without intimation to us,” he added.
Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Danish Siddiqui, who was working with news agency Reuters, was killed in clashes in Spin Boldak district in Kandahar. Based in Mumbai, he was covering the situation in the province as Taliban took over the key border crossing with Pakistan.
Afghan forces clashed on Friday with Taliban fighters in Spin Boldak after launching an operation to retake the key border crossing with Pakistan, as regional capitals stepped up efforts to get the warring sides talking.
Dozens of wounded Taliban fighters were being treated at a Pakistan hospital near the border after fierce overnight fighting, AFP correspondents at the scene reported.
Residents of Spin Boldak, which fell to the Taliban on Wednesday, said the Taliban and army were battling in the main bazaar of the border town. “There is heavy fighting,” said Mohammad Zahir.
The border crossing provides direct access to Pakistan’s Balochistan province, where the Taliban’s top leadership has been based for decades, along with an unknown number of reserve fighters who regularly enter Afghanistan to help bolster their ranks.