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Afghan Journalist Zabihullah Tamanna Breathes His Last In Kabul

NPR's Philip Reeves, who recruited Zabihullah Tamanna to NPR, described him as "a wonderful, compassionate and courageous man."

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Zabihullah
A 2011 picture of Zabihullah Tamanna. Image Courtesy: npr.org
  • Zabihullah Tamanna died due to a Taliban attack on Sunday, June 5
  • Zabi used to work as a photojournalist for a Chinese News Agency, Xinhua
  • NPR Correspondent Tom Browman described Zabihullah as a brave and trustworthy man

Zabihullah Tamanna, an interpreter for the NPR, was killed along with NPR’s very own photojournalist David Kelly last Sunday. The two, who were on an assignment of high importance, were travelling in a highly armored Humvee, which was attacked by a rocket-propelled grenade. The Taliban militants, who have wrecked terror in Afghanistan, are believed to be behind the attacks.

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Zabihullah, who was known as Zabi, worked as a photojournalist for the Chinese news agency Xinhua. More recently, he wrote for Turkey’s Anadolu News Agency. Zabi, as he was popularly called, had also written the high ticket story of the afghan president’s swearing in.

Pentagon correspondent of NPR Tom Bowman and producer Monika Evstatieva were also working on the assignment. Travelling in a separate vehicle, however, they were not injured.

Taliban members. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Taliban members. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

NPR’s Philip Reeves, who recruited Zabihullah Tamanna to NPR, said he had deep respect for the man. Phil wrote in a remembrance letter:

 “He was a tall man with a warm smile, who somehow managed to couple a casual manner with a quiet sense of authority. It soon became clear that he had a great eye for a story, and that people from every level of society simply liked and trusted him, an essential quality in the journalism business.

“Zabi seemed at ease with everyone; he persuaded senior politicians, young male migrants heading to Europe, female victims of war, and many, many more to speak into NPR’s microphone — and, by doing so, to shine a light on their nation’s unending conflict.

“On one unforgettable occasion, he managed to persuade an Afghan people smuggler to sit down and tell us all about his illicit trade over a lunch of grilled chicken and green tea.”

Zabihullah’s loved ones are grief stricken. Even through all the pain, Zabi’s widow, Fawzia Tamanna told NPR, “Please tell the world he was the finest man.”

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the attack “a grim reminder of the danger that continues to face the Afghan people.”

-written by Saurabh Bodas, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @saurabhbodas96

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Such journalists should be appreciated for their courage and determination

  • devika todi

    the dangers that the Afghan people face are immense. sitting in the safety of our homes, we often forget that.

Next Story

Devastating Islamic State Terror Group Set Conditions for Comeback

ISIS’s Second Comeback: Assessing the Next ISIS Insurgency, by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

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Islamic State, Terror, Comeback
FILE - Islamic State members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria, March 10, 2019. VOA

The Islamic State terror group has set conditions for a comeback that “could be faster and even more devastating” than when it first burst onto the world stage, according to a new report out Wednesday.

ISIS’s Second Comeback: Assessing the Next ISIS Insurgency, by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), also warns the terror group, often referred to as IS or ISIS, is likely to reclaim territory both in Syria and in Iraq, where it is already seizing control.

“ISIS has systematically eliminated village leaders and civilians who cooperated with anti-ISIS forces,” the report says. “It has re-imposed taxes on local populations in its historical support zones, displacing civilians and de facto controlling small pockets of terrain in Iraq.”

In Syria, IS faces a more daunting task, where it is still battling the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and Hay’at Tharir al-Sham, al Qaida’s Syrian affiliate.

Islamic State, Terror, Comeback
FILE — A member of U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) watches over people who were evacuated out of the last territory held by Islamic State militants, outside Baghouz, Syria, March 5, 2019. VOA

Still, the report’s authors believe IS is well-prepared for the fight, having taken advantage of the slow and methodical U.S.-backed campaign to roll back the terror group’s self-declared caliphate.

“ISIS deliberately withdrew and relocated many of its fighters and their families,” the reports states.

“ISIS’s forces are now dispersed across both countries and are waging a capable insurgency,” it says. “ISIS retained a global finance network that funded its transition back to an insurgency and managed to preserve sufficient weapons and other supplies in tunnel systems and other support zones in order to equip its regenerated insurgent force.”

The concerns about a possible IS resurgence are not new.

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As far back as August 2018, U.S. defense officials were warning IS was “well-positioned to rebuild and work on enabling its physical caliphate to re-emerge.”

More recently, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Stabilization Denise Natali warned, “the threat persists.”

And even this week, a statement by the Global Coalition to Defeat IS, admitted the terror group remains both resilient and undaunted, with cells in Syria and Iraq to conduct an increasing number of attacks against coalition partners and coalition partner forces.

“This is a major concern for the entire Coalition, as it puts at risk key military gains and the stability necessary for recovery,” the statement said.

Islamic State, Terror, Comeback
FILE – A U.S. soldier sits in an armored vehicle on a road leading to the tense front line with Turkish-backed fighters, in Manbij, north Syria, April 4, 2018. Pixabay

Data compiled by the Syrian-based Rojava Information Center and published earlier this month seems to support such concerns.

The center found there were 139 attacks by IS sleeper cells in northeastern Syria alone in May, an increase of 61% over the previous month. The number of deaths also rose, 42% in May to 78, with increases even in previously secure areas.

In addition to the attacks, IS has been blamed for burning hundreds of hectares of farmland in Syria and Iraq.

According to the most recent U.S. estimates, IS still commands at least 10,000 fighters across the two countries.  But despite the threat, U.S. troops involved in supporting the fight against IS have been leaving Syria.

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“The number of U.S. forces that are present now is quite a bit lower than when the drawdown began,” Chris Maier, the director of the Pentagon’s Defeat IS Task Force, told a small group of reporters last month.

“U.S. force numbers will continue to draw down as conditions continue to, we hope, improve,” he added.

Since then, some U.S. forces have been assigned to return to Syria, but according to U.S. defense officials, their primary mission is to protect forces there from growing threats from Iranian proxies in the region.

The overall trendlines, though, concern the authors of the ISW report, calling the lessening U.S. engagement, especially in Syria, “a critical mistake.”

Instead, the report calls on the U.S. to develop a long-term strategy that combines both military and a plan to address ongoing economic and humanitarian problems.

“Another limited intervention will not be sufficient,” concludes study co-author Jennifer Cafarella.

“The ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria has demonstrated to ostensibly liberated communities that they are not safe, perpetuating conditions of fear and distrust that will make it increasingly difficult to establish durable and legitimate security and political structures.” (VOA)