Islamic State claims attack on state TV station in Afghanistan
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The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on an Afghan state television station on Wednesday that killed at least six people as well as the attackers and wounded 24.
The attack, in the eastern city of Jalalabad, was the latest in a series on Afghan journalists and media in recent years. It came just over a week after it was confirmed that the leader of Islamic State in Afghanistan – Abdul Hassi - had been killed in a U.S. drone strike.
Wednesday’s attack was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group in a message posted on the Telegram messaging service by Amaq, the news agency linked to the jihadist group.
The Islamic State group has established a stronghold in Nangarhar province bordering Pakistan, of which Jalalabad is capital, where it fights both the Taliban and Afghan government forces.
The raid on the RTA (Radio Television Afghanistan) state broadcaster was carried out by four attackers, one of whom had detonated a suicide bomb at the entrance to the compound, said provincial governor Gulab Mangal.
The three others were killed by security forces in a gun battle.
As gunfire and explosions ripped the premises, journalists scrambled to leave the building and some were trapped as the battle continued to rage. Wounded people were taken to a local hospital, according to Afghan medical officials.
Among the dead were four RTA employees, including a driver, a guard, and two technical personnel, as well as two policemen, according to Mangal.
Seventeen civilians and seven members of the security forces were wounded, he added.
Deadly country for media
Wednesday's attack marks the latest militant assault on an Afghan media organisation.
Afghanistan suffered its deadliest year on record for journalists in 2016, according to the Afghan Journalists' Safety Committee (AJSC), which estimates that the country is the second most dangerous for reporters in the world after Syria.
At least 13 journalists were killed last year, AJSC said, claiming that the Taliban was behind at least ten of the deaths.
In January last year, seven employees of popular TV channel Tolo, which is often critical of the insurgents, were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul in what the militant group said was revenge for "spreading propaganda" against them.
It was the first major attack on an Afghan media organisation since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 and spotlighted the dangers faced by journalists as the security situation worsens.
Dan Coats, the head of US intelligence agencies, warned last week that the security situation "will also almost certainly deteriorate through 2018, even with a modest increase in the military assistance by the US".
US-led forces have been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 16 years, making it America's longest war.
The Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to break the deadlocked fight against the Taliban.
US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, who also mainly serve in an advisory capacity -- a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.
Recently, Islamic State has been hit hard by US air strikes and special forces operations.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP and AFP)