‘Hope Has Vanished’: Veteran Photojournalist Is Killed in Kabul


KABUL, Afghanistan — Growing up in a family genetically predisposed to blindness, Shah Marai developed a keen eye as a photographer.

For about 20 years, Mr. Marai, a veteran photojournalist, covered Afghanistan, his war-torn homeland, and its profound human suffering, but often with a soft touch. He rose to become the chief photographer in Kabul for Agence France-Presse, his income supporting a large family that included three blind brothers and two blind children.

On Monday, he was among a couple of dozen journalists in Kabul covering a rush-hour suicide bombing when a second attacker detonated his explosives amid reporters and first-responders. Altogether 25 people were killed, including Mr. Marai and eight other journalists.

Mr. Marai, who was 41, got his start as a photographer during the Taliban regime in the 1990s, when the practice was largely banned. He started first as a driver for A.F.P., and then slowly began to do photographic work, often in secret, when most news bureaus could not get a foothold in the country and relied on brave local residents like him.

After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, a new wave of optimism was clear in Mr. Marai’s work, as he covered elections and the rebuilding of a ravaged country.

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Taliban fighters on a tank near Kabul in October 2001.

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Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse

But following a brief period of relative calm, the war in Afghanistan has grown devastatingly violent in recent years. Mr. Marai’s work as news photographer often meant rushing to the site of the latest suicide bombing, and then following funerals and shattered families.

“There is no more hope,” he wrote in 2016, as he was arranging for his two brothers who were not blind to risk the migrant trail to Europe. “Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity.”

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Kabul Bombings Kill or Wound Dozens at Rush Hour


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Journalists and others responding to the first blast in Kabul were caught as victims in the second. Government and diplomatic offices are heavily present in the area.

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Omar Sobhani/Reuters

KABUL, Afghanistan — Coordinated bombings in Kabul during morning rush hour on Monday killed or wounded dozens of people, including emergency workers and journalists who had reached the site of the first explosion, officials said.

Wahid Majrooh, a spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry, said the estimated toll was 21 dead and 40 wounded so far. Officials and witnesses at the scene said the final casualty figures were likely to be higher.

The first bombing happened just before 8 a.m., near a guarded street behind the American Embassy that leads to many offices, including those of the Afghan intelligence agency. The second explosion, which was described as considerably larger, hit about half an hour later, as responders had gathered near the police cordon blocking the area.

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Shah Marai, a photographer with Agence France-Presse, was among the victims on Monday, his agency said.

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Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The second explosion was big, and it was among the crowd, like reporters and government staff who were waiting to go to the office,” said Muhammad Yunus, 38, a witness. “I was very close to the second explosion; I saw dozens of bodies laying on the ground.”

While information about casualties was still coming in, the veteran Agence France-Presse photographer Shah Marai was among those killed, his colleagues confirmed. A spokesman for the health ministry, Wahid Majrooh, said that among the journalists killed were also a reporter from Tolonews, two from 1TV, one from Jahan TV, and one from Azadi radio.

Separately, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into an armored Romanian vehicle beside a mosque outside the city of Kandahar, setting off an explosion that killed 11 children and injured 16 others, officials said

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