NPR photojournalist and interpreter killed in Afghanistan

NPR photographer David Gilkey and translator Zabihullah Tamanna were killed in an attack against the military convoy they were accompanying.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

NPR photojournalist David Gilkey is pictured at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan in this May 29, 2016 handout photo.

Photojournalist David Gilkey and interpreter Zabihullah Tamanna were killed in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province on Sunday, while travelling in an Afghan military convoy, according to NPR.

The region where the attack occurred, Helmand, has witnessed intense fighting between Taliban insurgents and NATO-backed government troops. 

The pair were embedded with a convoy of six lightly armored Humvees when their vehicle was struck by an 82mm rocket during a Taliban ambush, Shakil Ahmad Tasal, a spokesmen for the Afghan army told Reuters.

Two other NPR staffers in another vehicle were unharmed.

Zabihullah Tamanna was also a journalist who wrote for Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, he leaves behind a wife and three children.

Zabihullah Tamanna and David Gilkey

Gilkey was a former White House photographer who was part of the NPR team that won a prestigious George Polk award for an investigation into the US military’s failure to treat brain injuries in veterans. The White House Photographers Association named Gilkey Still Photographer of the Year in 2011.

He travelled to deadly conflicts around the world, on assignment for NPR.

He was among the first photographers to go to Afghanistan when the US invaded in 2001. He subsequently went to Iraq and embedded with US army units.

Gilkey also documented the 2009 Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2015 Ebola epidemic in Liberia, and conflicts in Rwanda, the Balkans and Somalia.

Afghanistan has a track record of being among the most perilous countries for media.

In January at least seven employees of a major Afghan TV station perished in a suicide attack in Kabul.

The last foreign journalist killed in the country was Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, who was covering the 2014 elections.  She was shot and killed by an Afghan policeman.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 31 journalists and media workers have been killed in Afghanistan since 9/11. Most of the cases were confirmed to be work-related.

The Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia program coordinator Bob Dietz said, in a statement on Sunday, “Even though much of the world’s attention has shifted away, let no one doubt that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place for journalists--local and foreign--working to cover that protracted conflict. We are deeply saddened by the deaths of Zabihullah Tamanna and David Gilkey. There are too many journalists who have given their lives to tell the Afghan story.”


TRTWorld and agencies