Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist killed amid clash between Afghan forces, Taliban

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Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist for Reuters, was killed on Friday while covering a skirmish between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, the media outlet confirmed.

Both Siddiqui and a senior Afghan officer were killed in what an Afghan commander described as Taliban crossfire, according to Reuters, amid efforts by Afghan forces to retake the main market area of Spin Boldak — a border town in the southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.

Siddiqui, who this week began work embedded with Afghan forces based in Kandahar, had told Reuters earlier Friday that he had been wounded in the arm by shrapnel during the fighting. He was reportedly recovering from the injury as Taliban fighters retreated from Spin Boldak.

But the Taliban launched a new attack as Siddiqui was talking to shopkeepers in the area, the Afghan commander told Reuters. The media outlet could not independently verify the details of the second clash that resulted in Siddiqui’s death.

Earlier this week, Siddiqui posted a harrowing Twitter thread documenting his time with Afghan forces as they embarked on a rescue mission in Kandahar, with the goal of extracting a wounded policeman trapped by Taliban fighters.

Among the photos Siddiqui included in his messages was a brief video capturing the moment a Taliban-fired rocket made contact with the Humvee in which he and Afghan forces were traveling to the extraction point. Their mission was ultimately successful.

One of Siddiqui’s final photos showed him laying on a patch of green grass with his eyes closed, as two Afghan soldiers sat cross-legged nearby. “Got a 15 minute break during almost 15 hours of back to back missions,” he wrote in the accompanying tweet.

Siddiqui joined Retuers in 2010 and was part of its team of photojournalists that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for their work documenting Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar.

In a statement, Reuters President Michael Friedenberg and Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni said they were “urgently seeking more information” about Siddiqui’s death and “working with authorities in the region.”

“Danish was an outstanding journalist, a devoted husband and father, and a much-loved colleague,” Friedenberg and Galloni said. “Our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time.”

On Wednesday, the Taliban said it had seized the strategic border crossing where Siddiqui was killed, after already claiming last Friday that it had gained control of 85 percent of Afghanistan’s territory.

In the last week alone, the Islamic fundamentalist group has taken over nearly 10 percent of Afghanistan, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and it now controls 195 of the country’s 407 districts — while contesting another 129.

The United States in the final stages of a full military withdrawal from Afghanistan, with Gen. Scott Miller — the top American commander there — departing the country on Monday. President Joe Biden announced last Thursday that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan would conclude on Aug. 31, ahead of his self-imposed drawdown deadline of Sept. 11.

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