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Photojournalist Danish Siddiqui’s body was mutilated by Taliban: US media report

Siddiqui was laid to rest at the Jamia Millia Islamia graveyard in New Delhi two days after his death. He was part of the Reuters team that won the Pulitzer in 2018.

Photojournalist Danish Siddiqui's body was mutilated by Taliban: US media report-dnm
New Delhi, First Published Aug 1, 2021, 1:02 PM IST

New Delhi: Indian photojournalist Danish Siddiqui did not die in crossfire but was “brutally murdered” by the Taliban, an opinion piece in US news magazine Washington Examiner said.

Siddiqui, 38, was on assignment in Afghanistan when he died. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Indian photojournalist was killed while covering clashes between Afghan troops and the Taliban in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar city.

Siddiqui was laid to rest at the Jamia Millia Islamia graveyard in New Delhi two days after his death. He was part of the Reuters team that won the Pulitzer in 2018.

Initial photographs from the scene showed Siddiqui’s body with multiple wounds but fully intact, a report in New York Times said.

However, by evening when the body was handed over to the Red Cross and transferred to a hospital in the Southern city Kandahar, the body had been badly mutilated, according to two Indian officials and two Afghan health officials.

According to the Washington Examiner report, Siddiqui travelled with an Afghan National Army team to the Spin Boldak region to cover fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban to control the lucrative border crossing with Pakistan.

“The circumstances of Siddiqui’s death are now clear. He was not simply killed in a crossfire, nor was he simply collateral damage; rather, he was brutally murdered by the Taliban,” stated former US Defense Secretary Adviser Michael Rubin, who authored the report.

The report said that according to Afghanistan authorities, Siddiqui travelled with an Afghan National Army team to cover clashes in the Spin Boldak region.

“When they got to within one-third of a mile of the customs post, a Taliban attack split the team, with the commander and a few men separated from Siddiqui, who remained with three other Afghan troops,” it added.

During the assault, shrapnel injured Siddiqui, causing him and his team to take refuge at a mosque where he received first aid, the report claimed.

But Taliban attacked the mosque only because of Siddiqui’s presence there and the report added that Siddiqui was alive when the Taliban captured him. The Taliban verified Siddiqui’s identity and then executed him, as well as those with him. The commander and the remainder of his team died as they tried to rescue him, it said.

The Taliban’s decision to hunt down, execute Siddiqui, and then mutilate his corpse shows that they do not respect the rules of war or conventions that govern the behaviour of the global community., the report said.

Hours after the news of Siddiqui’s demise spread, the Taliban denied a role in his death. Denying that Taliban had a hand in Siddiqui’s killing, its spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said, “We are not aware during whose firing the journalist was killed. We do not know how he died."

After the Islamist group turned over Siddiqui’s body to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Indian and Afghan officials told the New York Times that Mr Siddiqui’s face was unrecognisable and that there were nearly a dozen of bullet wounds in his body and tyre marks on his face and chest.

“The real question for journalists is why the State Department continues to pretend that Siddiqui’s death was just a tragic accident,” Rubin asked in the report.

In a statement on 17 July, the US said it was “deeply saddened” by the journalist’s death and called for an end to the violence in Afghanistan.

Siddiqui won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 as part of the Reuters team for their coverage of the Rohingya crisis. He had extensively covered the Afghanistan conflict, the Hong Kong protests and other major events in Asia, Middle East, and Europe.

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