A prominent local journalist was shot dead by unknown assailants in Afghanistan's central Ghazni province on Monday – the fourth to be killed in the war-ravaged nation in only two months.
Rahmatullah Nekzad was shot dead as he left his home in Ghazni City to walk to a nearby mosque, said Ahmad Khan Serat, spokesman for the provincial police chief.
Nekzad, who led the Ghazni Journalists' Union, was well known in the area. He had been contributing to the Associated Press since 2007 and had previously worked for Al Jazeera TV channel.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the killing and the relentless attacks on journalists in Afghanistan.
"Rahmatullah Nikzad's crucial work documenting the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan has been brought to a tragic end by this brutal killing," said Aliya Iftikhar, the group's senior Asia researcher. "The recent spate of killings of journalists in Afghanistan is unacceptable and the Afghan government must redouble efforts to ensure justice and safety for members of the media."
Nikzad had received threats from different sources over the years and had notified local and national officials about them, Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, director of the Afghan press freedom organisation NAI, said..
During his career, Nekzad had been arrested at various times by the US, the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents. His peers said he prided himself in telling all sides of a story.
The Taliban denied involvement in the killing, calling it a cowardly attack.
"We consider this killing a loss for the country," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. Large areas of Ghazni province are under Taliban control.
ISIS militants, blamed for a series of attacks on a range of targets in Afghanistan in recent months, claimed it had killed another Afghan journalist earlier this month. Two assailants opened fire and killed TV anchor Malala Maiwand as she left her house in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province. Her driver was also killed.
In November, two journalists were killed in separate bombings.
The international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has called Afghanistan one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists.
The Afghan Journalists' Safety Committee said seven media personnel had been killed this year.