Hong Kong-based journalist Nils Horner shot dead in Kabul attack

Unexplained murder of Swedish radio man in Afghanistan shocks friends and colleagues

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 5:37pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 12:03pm

A gunman shot dead a Hong Kong-based journalist in central Kabul yesterday in a daylight murder that shocked the small international community living in a city on alert ahead of elections.

Taliban militants denied responsibility for the unexplained shooting of Nils Horner, 51, which occurred in an upmarket district of the Afghan capital.

The journalist, who held joint Swedish and British nationality, worked for Swedish national radio. His death was confirmed by Sweden's ambassador to Afghanistan, Peter Semneby.

Police said Horner's driver and translator were being questioned but the attackers had not been caught.

Watch: Hong Kong-based journalist gunned down in Kabul

A witness at the scene described hearing a single gunshot before seeing Horner fall to the ground, and a doctor at Kabul's emergency hospital said he was dead on arrival.

"There were two guys who ran away. They were perhaps in their 20s and security guards chased them as they ran away," the witness said.

Horner, hired by Sveriges Radio in 2001, was an experienced reporter who had been in Afghanistan to witness the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and in Iraq during the war in 2003. He also covered the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

"Nils was one of our absolutely best and most experienced correspondents and what happened to him today is terrible," Sveriges Radio chief Cilla Benko said in Stockholm.

"He was in Kabul three to four times a year. He knew the town and had carried out security checks."

According to journalists in Kabul, Horner arrived in the city on Sunday and had planned to stay for about a week or 10 days.

"Among Swedish journalists, he was a legend. In many ways, he died as he lived - in the middle of a news story," said Johan Nylander, a Swedish freelance journalist based in Hong Kong.

"For many years he didn't even have an apartment. Hong Kong was the first place he put down his suitcase for half a decade. He'd been covering Southeast Asia for several years and had moved to Hong Kong a couple of months ago."

The Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong, of which Horner was a member, expressed "deep shock and sadness" at his murder.

"We demand that Afghan authorities conduct a full investigation into this senseless crime, and bring the culprits to justice as soon as possible," it said.

On Tuesday, many of Kabul's security forces were on duty at the funeral of Vice-President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, who died on Sunday. Horner had released a radio piece reporting on Fahim's death.