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At least two killed in Afghan TV bus bombing in Kabul

KABUL (Reuters) - At least two people were killed and two injured when a private bus carrying employees of an Afghan television station was bombed in Kabul on Sunday, two government officials said.

A bomb attached by magnets to a bus used by Khurshid TV blew up during the evening rush hour. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, in which the driver and a passerby were killed, said Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the interior ministry.

Samiullah Aminy, the news director with Khurshid TV, confirmed the attack and said a cameraman and an audio presenter were injured in the blast.

The Taliban, which controls part of the country, had warned in June that it would target Afghan media organisations if they did not stop broadcasting anti-Taliban advertisements. The hardline Islamist group gave Afghan radio stations, TV channels, publications and others a week to cease airing anti-Taliban announcements paid for by the government.

“We don’t broadcast anti-Taliban advertisements but it is clear that freedom of expression is under constant threat in Afghanistan,” said Aminy.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned Sunday’s attack, saying in a Twitter post, “Deliberately targeting media and civilians is a war crime and those responsible will be held accountable”.

Afghanistan was the deadliest country in the world to be a journalist in 2018, with 13 deaths, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The International Federation of Journalists said 16 journalists were killed last year.

The international media presence in Afghanistan has been sharply reduced since the withdrawal of international troops in 2014. Domestic media outlets have filled the gap but their work has become increasingly difficult.

In 2016, a Taliban suicide bomber rammed his car into a bus carrying employees of Tolo TV, the country’s largest private broadcaster, killing seven journalists.

The Taliban said it killed the employees because Tolo was producing propaganda that supported the occupation of Afghanistan by the United States and its allies in their war against the insurgents.

Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi; Editing by Frances Kerry