BBC seeks inquiry into Afghan reporter's death

LONDON Mon Aug 1, 2011 9:38am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's BBC has demanded an urgent inquiry by NATO-led forces in Afghanistan into the death of one of its reporters during a suicide bomb attack and gun battle last week.

Omed Khpalwak, a local reporter for the BBC and the Afghan news agency Pajhwok, died with 18 others during fighting between insurgents and Afghan forces supported by NATO aircraft.

An Afghan journalists' group, the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) in Afghanistan, said on Sunday that Khpalwak was shot from behind at government buildings in the southern province of Uruzgan. However, the group's head Zia Bornia said it was far from clear which side had fired the fatal shot.

"Conflicting reports have emerged regarding the facts surrounding his death," the BBC said in a statement released in London on Monday. "The BBC has officially requested that International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) inquires into the circumstances of his death and reports the findings to the BBC and to his family as urgently as possible."

An ISAF spokesman had no immediate comment on the request for an inquiry into the death of Khpalwak, 25, who began working for the BBC in May 2008.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001, with high foreign troop deaths and record civilian casualties.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths)

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