United Nations special rapporteur condemns attacks on journalists in Afghanistan

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Hours after the double suicide blast in Kabul that killed nine journalists and 16 others, dozens of Afghan news editors and executives gathered at the site in a public display of defiance to militants. Reporters Without Borders called it the most lethal single attack on the media since the fall of the Taliban.

No-one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but both Taliban and Islamic State group are active and have repeatedly claimed attacks in Kabul. The groups claimed that two suicide bombers had targeted the Kabul headquarters of Afghanistan's intelligence services.

Insurgents in Afghanistan are gaining strength while government forces are losing personnel, a USA watchdog told Congress Tuesday, a day after at least 31 people were killed in extremist bombings in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

'The legacy of those killed is their reminder that serving the public's right to know, can be risky and deserves all of our respect and support'. AFP confirmed that, along with Marai, two journalists from 1TV and one from Tolo News were among the dead.

Ten journalists were killed Monday, including Agence France-Presse chief photographer Shah Marai, in attacks that sparked outrage around the world and underscored the dangers faced by Afghan media.

Marai joined AFP as a driver in 1996, the year the Taliban seized power, and began taking pictures on the side, covering stories including the USA invasion in 2001.

RELATEDAt least 29 dead in double bombings in Afghanistan
RELATEDAt least 29 dead in double bombings in Afghanistan

In 2002, he became a full-time photo stringer, rising through the ranks to become the bureau's chief photographer.

He leaves behind six children, including a newborn daughter.

"Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the USA and our global allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing", SIGAR chief John Sopko said.

The local Islamic State group affiliate and the more firmly established Taliban carry out regular attacks around the country, with the Taliban usually targeting the government and security forces and IS targeting the Shiite minority.

Some Western and Afghan officials expect 2018 to be a particularly bloody year.

The suicide attacks took place in the central Shash Darak area, which is home to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation headquarters and a number of embassies in Afghanistan.

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The special powers were granted by Spain to the region in a new constitution in 1978. THIS advocated for the independence of ethnic Basques from Spain and France.

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