A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist known for his hard-hitting coverage of South Asia was killed in clashes at a border post in Afghanistan, Reuters confirmed in an email statement to VICE World News.
Mumbai-based Danish Siddiqui, who reported for the Reuters news agency for over a decade, died on Friday while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters.
An Afghan military commander told Reuters that Siddiqui was killed along with a senior Afghan officer in “Taliban crossfire” as the Afghan Special Forces tried to regain control of the main market in Spin Boldak, a strategic border town that gives the Taliban access to Pakistan.
News outlets reported heavy clashes between the Taliban and the Afghan forces over control of the border post. The Taliban have been waging a deadly war for complete control of Afghanistan as US troops leave the region after a 20-year war that has claimed the lives of more than 170,000 people.
Over the last few weeks, the Taliban has been aggressively occupying territories previously controlled by the Afghan government. Recent gains by the Taliban include Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city.
Danish Siddiqui previously informed his organization that he was wounded with a shrapnel while on assignment early Friday. Photo courtesy: Reuters
Siddiqui had been embedded in the region since earlier this week and was recovering from a shrapnel wound inflicted during reporting earlier on Friday, the Reuters report stated. “Siddiqui had been talking to shopkeepers when the Taliban attacked again,” Reuters quoted the Afghan commander as saying.
Afghan journalist Bashir Ahmad Gwakh tweeted that Siddiqui had “survived two other ambushes” in a span of a week. “But not a third one,” he added. “He’ll be dearly missed.”
Siddiqui had tweeted a video of the military vehicle he was travelling in getting hit by a rocket three days ago. “I was lucky to be safe and capture the visual,” he had said.
“Danish was an outstanding, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, a devoted husband and father, and a much-loved colleague.” Reuters President Michael Friedenberg and Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni said in their statement.
“We are urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region, and supporting Danish’s family and colleagues.”
Siddiqui’s work often captured the human experience at the heart of a conflict. In 2018, Siddiqui, along with fellow Reuters photojournalist Adnan Abidi, won the Pulitzer Prize for documenting the Rohingya refugee crisis. His coverage of the anti-Citizenship Law protests in India won him the Human Rights Press Awards in 2021.
Last year, his coverage of the deadly communal pogrom in New Delhi, where a Muslim neighbourhood was attacked by a Hindu mob, was chosen as one of the most defining photographs of 2020 by Reuters.
In May this year, Siddiqui’s aerial photographs of mass cremations of COVID-19 dead bodies went viral.
Siddiqui spent his final days reporting from Afghanistan. In his last reportage, he tagged along with the Afghan Special Forces, the elite fighters at the frontlines of the conflict, for a rescue mission on the outskirts of Kandahar.
As news of Siddiqui’s death broke on Friday afternoon, communities in India and around the world posted their condolences and shared his award-winning body of work.
Farid Mamundzay, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, expressed his condolences in a tweet. “The Indian journalist...was embedded with Afghan security forces,” he stated. “I met him two weeks ago before his departure to Kabul.”
Indian journalist Rahul Bhatia reminisced how Siddiqui would often return from assignments and be greeted “like a rockstar.”
“News wasn’t just news for him. He saw the people behind it and wanted to make you feel,” he tweeted. “Danish and other journalists show the limits of [risk assessment] training because they’re skating so close to the edge of the truth of a situation. That's how he got those pictures of mass pyres, of the lunatic with the gun during the protests, of a man beaten senselessly. ‘This is happening,’ his pictures said. ‘Look.’”
According to a profile published by Reuters, Siddiqui had said that he enjoyed “capturing the human face of a breaking story.” “I shoot for the common man who wants to see and feel a story from a place where he can’t be present himself,” he had said.
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