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Afghan officials: Local journalist killed in Ghazni province

Afghan officials: Local journalist killed in Ghazni province

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A prominent local journalist was shot dead by unknown assailants in Afghanistan's central Ghazni province on Monday — the fourth to be killed in the war-ravaged nation in just two months. Afghanistan is considered one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists.

Rahmatullah Nekzad was gunned down as he left his home in Ghazni City to walk to a nearby mosque, said Ahmad Khan Serat, spokesman for the provincial police chief.

Nekzad, who headed the Ghazni Journalists' Union, was well known in the area. He had contributed to The Associated Press since 2007 and had previously worked for the Al Jazeera satellite TV channel.

During his career, Nekzad was arrested at various times by the United States, the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents. His peers said he prided himself in telling all sides of a story.

The Taliban denied involvement in the killing, calling it a cowardly attack. “We consider this killing a loss for the country,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. Large swaths of Ghazni province are under Taliban control.

Islamic State militants, blamed for a series of attacks on a range of targets in Afghanistan in recent months, claimed responsibility for a high-profile attack on an Afghan journalist earlier this month.

In that attack, two assailants opened fire and killed TV anchorwoman Malala Maiwand as she left her house in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province. Her driver was also killed in the shooting.

In November two journalists were killed in separate bombings.

The international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has called Afghanistan one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists.

The Afghan Journalists' Safety Committee said seven media personnel have been killed this year.