Journalist's killing in Afghanistan raises fears of new trend

Swede was working on street in Kabul

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- A Swedish journalist was shot and killed Tuesday in Kabul in a brazen attack that many worry reflects the growing danger for foreigners in Afghanistan's capital.

Nils Horner, 52, was gunned down in a neighborhood populated by Western nongovernmental organizations, embassies and journalists. It's the same area where 21 people, mostly foreigners, were killed when a Lebanese restaurant was attacked in January.

Both attacks sent shock waves through the international community in Kabul. Mr. Horner's killing, in broad daylight, was particularly disturbing to Western journalists who do much of their work beyond the blast walls of military bases and diplomatic compounds.

According to Afghan police officials, Mr. Horner was conducting an interview on the street when two armed men shot him in the head.

"Police are continuing their efforts to arrest the culprits of the incident," said an Afghan police statement.

Mr. Horner, the South Asia correspondent for the Swedish radio station Sveriges Radio, had previously been based in New York City and London, according to the station's website. He had only recently arrived in Kabul.

No one has been arrested, and the Taliban have not yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

He was "a legend," Swedish journalist Terese Cristiansson said, "one of the best we have ever had."

In January, Western expatriates in Kabul had hoped the deadly attack on the Lebanese restaurant would prove to be an aberration. Typically, during the course of this 12-year war, the Taliban have chosen to target military bases or high-profile diplomatic installations rather than restaurants or journalists.

But the January attack appeared to be a tactical shift. Among the dead were three Americans, including two employees of the American University of Afghanistan. Three United Nations staff members were also killed.

Mr. Horner's killing Tuesday led many to worry that a trend was beginning to emerge, which, if it continues, would keep NGO workers from meeting their Afghan counterparts and hinder journalists' efforts to report thoroughly on the country's upcoming elections and ongoing U.S. withdrawal.

The elections, in particular, are expected to prompt an escalation in violence, as insurgents attempt to disrupt the Afghan political process. It remains unclear how successful they will be at penetrating the security infrastructure that surrounds Kabul.

Meanwhile, Mr. Horner's friends on Tuesday celebrated the life of a journalist who loved his work. "The only thing he always wanted and talked about was being in the field," Ms. Cristiansson said.

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