International News Aug 25, 2021 4:14 PM EST

Reuters photojournalist left behind enemy lines killed and mutilated by Taliban

Danish Siddiqui, an award winning Reuters photojournalist working in Afghanistan to cover the Taliban takeover of the country, has reportedly been killed and mutilated by Taliban fighters.

Reuters photojournalist left behind enemy lines killed and mutilated by Taliban
Hannah Nightingale Washington DC
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Danish Siddiqui, an award winning Reuters photojournalist working in Afghanistan covering the Taliban takeover of the country, has reportedly been killed and mutilated by Taliban fighters.

According to the Daily Mail, Siddiqui was killed during the Taliban's takeover of Spin Boldak in southern Afghanistan.

It is believed that Siddiqui was injured by rocket shrapnel and subsequently left behind by the retreating Afghan army he was embedded in before falling into the hands of the Taliban.

Siddiqui had reportedly asked to be sent to Afghanistan, telling his bosses, "If we don't go, who will?"

He arrived at a Kandahar Afghan Special Forces base on July 11, and was embedded in a unit of several hundred elite commandos that were attempting to flush out Taliban fighters that were capturing territories.

Two days later, Siddiqui was in a convoy returning from a mission to rescue a surrounded policeman, when the convoy was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

Siddiqui captured the moment on video when an RPG struck the Humvee he was traveling in. The attack destroyed three other vehicles in the convoy.

On July 16, Siddiqui was photographing an Afghan offensive in Spin Boldak when he was caught in the crossfire. It is believed that he was injured by shrapnel from a rocket during that offensive attack.

Siddiqui was rushed to a local mosque for treatment. Major-General Haibatullah Alizai, the commander of Afghanistan's Special Operations Corps, said that his soldiers withdrew from Spin Boldak.

The retreating troops left behind Siddiqui and the two commandos accompanying him, mistakenly thinking they had joined the retreating convoy. "They were left there," Alizai said.

Based on photographs shared online, Afghan security officials and Indian government representatives told Reuters that it appears Siddiqui's body was mutilated after his death.

Philip Boyce of Forensic Equity, a British ballistics expert consulted by Reuters, compared the photographs to pictures and x-rays of Siddiqui's body after being recovered from the Taliban.

Boyce concluded it was "evident that he was shot multiple further times after he was killed," the Daily Mail wrote.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that the post-mortem injuries occurred before Taliban fighters found his body.

As a result of Siddiqui's death, some Reuters journalists are questioning the decision to allow Siddiqui to stay in Afghanistan.

According to the Daily Mail, "Members of the newsroom familiar with the decision-making say Siddiqui's embed with soldiers in Afghanistan was backed by senior photo editors, vetted by external advisers and newsroom managers who handle security, and reviewed by a group of top editors who regularly meet to consider potentially dangerous assignments."

Reuters Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni said  in a written statement that she had agreed to Siddiqui's embed with Afghan Special Forces.

"As editor-in-chief, I take full responsibility for the decision," she wrote.

Galloni wrote in a July 23 email to staff that Siddiqui was "our brilliant colleague and devoted friend."

"I also know many of you want answers. We do too." The review process that's under way, she said, "includes a detailed examination of our security procedures."

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