Tributes for Hong Kong-based Nils Horner, Sweden's 'Voice of Asia', shot dead in Kabul

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 March, 2014, 4:46am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 March, 2014, 11:42am

Friends of Hong Kong-based Swedish journalist Nils Horner, shot dead on Tuesday in Afghanistan, have paid tribute to a man they described as a "true gentleman" who brought Asia to Sweden through his radio reports.

The 51-year-old, who was also a British national, was shot at close range in broad daylight in Kabul. A little-known Islamist militant group, Fidai Mahaz, claimed responsibility, alleging Horner was a British spy.

Swedish authorities have launched a probe into his death but say they will not interfere with the Afghan police's investigation. No suspects have been arrested.

The Swedish press have published dozens of tributes for a man known as the "voice of Asia" as regional correspondent for Swedish public radio since 2001.

One of his closest friends in Hong Kong, Swedish reporter Per Liljas, 31, said Horner was an idol for journalists of his generation.

"He was always on the spot, reporting from where it happened and talking to people on the ground, not focusing so much on the bigwigs but meeting with people, always combined with good analysis," Liljas said. "He was pretty much the voice of Asia for Sweden."

Liljas and his wife Kristina were with Horner last weekend after he invited the couple to his apartment in Mid-Levels, having made Hong Kong his base since December.

"He loved the vibe in Hong Kong and it was a conscious choice by him to make this his base," Liljas said. Less than 72 hours later, Horner was dead.

"It's such a shock because we saw him so recently," Kristina Liljas said. "Just last Saturday, we sat on his terrace and he had bought strawberries and whipped cream and a bottle of rosé wine. He was just so thoughtful always."

"Later that evening, we invited him to a birthday party for a girl he didn't know. He came along and was out talking to people and apologised when he had to leave at midnight to catch his flight to Afghanistan. He was going to be back next weekend and we had talked about going for a hike in Sai Kung."

Liljas was on assignment for Time magazine in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday when he heard the news of Horner's death.

"I was typing up the story and got a news flash that a Swedish journalist had been shot dead in Kabul and I … felt my heart stop and my hands were trembling. I fell down on the floor, crying uncontrollably."

Long-time friend Ulrika Mannius remembers first meeting Horner in 1985 when he was studying economics, political science and literature at the University of Gothenburg: "He was a warm and gentle person with great integrity and a helpful nature who always took the time to talk," she said. "He was a true gentleman, which is not so common these days."

Nene Takagishi from Tokyo, who first met Horner in 2009, described him as "gentle, loving, considerate, and one of the smartest people I know. Strong-willed, stubborn, respectful and a loyal friend".

Horner is survived by his 92-year-old mother and elder sister.