Taliban Kills NPR Journalist and Translator in Afghanistan

David Gilkey is the first non-military American journalist killed during the 15-year-long Afghan conflict

Zabihullah Tamanna
Getty Images

National Public Radio photographer David Gilkey and interpreter Zabihullah Tamara were killed during a Taliban ambush in southern Afghanistan on Sunday.

Gilkey, 50, was the first American journalist not in the military killed during the 15-year-long Afghan conflict, according to The New York Times. The attack is the first time in the history of NPR that one of its journalists has been killed on assignment.

“David and Zabihullah were on assignment for the network traveling with an Afghan army unit. They were in an armored Humvee driven by a soldier of the Afghan National Army. All three were killed after the Humvee was hit by rocket propelled grenades in an apparent ambush,” NPR wrote when describing the attacks on its website.

NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman and producer Monika Evstatieva were also in the convoy, traveling in a separate vehicle, but they were not injured.

NPR’s statement noted some of Gilkey’s achievements: [He] “was considered one of the best photojournalists in the world — honored with a raft of awards including a George Polk Award in 2010, a national News and Documentary Emmy in 2007 and dozens of distinctions from the White House News Photographers Association, including 2011 Still Photographer of the Year.”

Back in 2010, Gilkey traveled to Haiti to photograph the aftermath of a deadly earthquake. He reflected on the trip in an NPR video.

NPR vice president Michael Oreskes sent a letter to staff to address the tragedy.

“David has been covering war and conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. He was devoted to helping the public see these wars and the people caught up in them. He died pursuing that commitment,” Oreskes wrote. “As a man and as a photojournalist, David brought out the humanity of all those around him. He let us see the world and each other through his eyes.”

The Times reported that the last foreign journalist killed in Afghanistan was Anja Niedringhaus, a German citizen and an Associated Press photographer, who was shot in 2014.