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Suicide blast targets Afghanistan media group, killing 7

Suicide blast targets Afghanistan media group, killing 7
An Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of suicide car bomb attack against a vehicle carrying employees of the Afghan TV channel Tolo in Kabul on Jan. 20. (Shah Marai / AFP/Getty Images)

A suicide car bomb struck a bus carrying employees of Afghanistan's largest independent television broadcaster Wednesday evening, killing seven people and wounding 27, police officials said.

The blast in western Kabul's Darulaman Road area hit a civilian bus transporting employees of Moby Group, which includes the Tolo TV news channel, the city's police chief, Abdul Rahman Rahimi, told reporters at the scene.

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The Taliban, which last year named employees of Tolo and 1TV, another major private broadcaster, as legitimate targets, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

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"Unfortunately, in the terrorist attack today in Darulaman Road in Kabul, we lost 7 staff members," Tolo TV said on its Twitter account.

Rahimi condemned the bombing, saying the media and freedom of the press should never come under attack.

Abdullah Abdullah, the chief executive of Afghanistan's national unity government, said: "Attacks on innocent civilians have no justifications. It contradicts all faiths, religions, beliefs and humanity."

In a statement last October, the Taliban for the first time threatened specific media outlets, saying employees and offices of the private broadcasters were military targets "due to their disrespectful and hostile actions toward the Afghan mujahid nation," as it sometimes refers to itself.

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"Henceforth no employee, anchor, office, news team and reporter of these TV channels holds any immunity," the statement said.

In the 14 years since the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban government, the growth of private media has been seen as one of the major advancements in Afghanistan. The number of news organizations nationwide now exceeds 1,000, compared with 15 during Taliban rule.

The Taliban has increased attacks on civilian targets in recent months as part of a fierce offensive that has wrested territory from the Afghan government. This week, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China called on the Taliban to resume peace talks with the Kabul government, but the insurgent group has not indicated whether it will participate.

Latifi is a special correspondent.

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