The Taliban Mutilated the Body of a Reuters Photographer.
The body of Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist killed in Afghanistan, was unrecognizable when it was brought to a Kandahar hospital.
Danish Siddiqui's body was badly mutilated during the Taliban's custody, officials said this week. Siddiqui was a Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters photojournalist who was killed in Afghanistan this month.
The revelation comes amid growing concern that the fighting in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have waged an aggressive military offensive since the US withdrew nearly all of its troops, has become increasingly brutal as peace talks stall.
Mr. Siddiqui, 38, an Indian national who has captured some of the most memorable news images from South Asia in recent years, was assassinated on July 16 while accompanying Afghan commandos to Spin Boldak, a border district recently captured by the Taliban. Mr. Siddiqui's body had multiple wounds but remained completely intact in the initial photographs from the scene.
However, by the time the body was turned over to the Red Cross and transported to a hospital in the southern city of Kandahar that evening, it had been severely mutilated, according to two Indian officials and two Afghan health officials present. In the days following Mr. Siddiqui's assassination, an Indian website, Newslaundry, reported on the mutilation.
The New York Times examined multiple photographs, some provided by Indian officials and others taken at the hospital by Afghan health workers, that revealed Mr. Siddiqui's body had been mutilated. According to one Indian official, the body was shot nearly a dozen times and Mr. Siddiqui's face and chest bore tire marks.
Mr. Siddiqui's body, along with his press vest, arrived at Kandahar's main hospital around 8 p.m. on the day he was killed, according to one of the city's health officials. The official stated that his face was unrecognizable and that he was unable to determine what had been done to the body.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, denied any wrongdoing on the part of the insurgents, saying they were directed to treat bodies with respect and turn them over to local elders or the Red Cross. However, the Taliban were in control of the area at the time, and some photographs showed what appeared to be Taliban fighters circling Mr. Siddiqui's body, which was still intact at the time.
“Danish has always chosen to be on the front lines in order to expose abuses and atrocities,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch's South Asia director. “The heinousness with which Taliban fighters punished Danish demonstrates the extent of the abuses that he was documenting.”
According to Human Rights Watch and other watchdog organizations, the Taliban have carried out a series of revenge killings in Kandahar Province, which has witnessed some of the most heinous episodes in Afghanistan's four war-torn decades.
In the 1990s, the Taliban rose to power in southern province, promising to put an end to atrocities perpetrated by local militias. Afghan forces led by Abdul Raziq, a general assassinated in 2018, have been accused of using ruthless tactics in their fight against the Taliban in Kandahar in recent years. General Raziq's hometown was Spin Boldak, where Mr. Siddiqui died. The Taliban have detained, and in some cases executed, individuals associated with the general.
There are conflicting accounts of what happened on July 16, as Mr. Siddiqui's Afghan special forces attempted to recapture Spin Boldak.
According to local authorities and Taliban members, Mr. Siddiqui and the commander of the Afghan unit were killed in a crossfire when their convoy was ambushed from multiple directions. According to this version of events, their bodies were abandoned on the battlefield while the remainder of the unit retreated.
According to some news outlets, the Taliban may have captured Mr. Siddiqui alive and then executed him. These reports were unable to be independently verified. According to one Indian official, some of Mr. Siddiqui's wounds appeared to be the result of close-range gunshots.
Mr. Siddiqui posted a video on Twitter three days before his assassination in which he claimed that several rocket-propelled grenades struck the armored vehicle in which he was traveling.
Two days after his death, his body was returned to his New Delhi residence in a closed coffin. The narrow alley that led to his house was densely packed with neighbors and friends. Colleagues — many of whom had accompanied him as he covered some of India's most turbulent recent events, including mass protests and the coronavirus pandemic — sobbed, hugged, and consoled one another.
Mr. Siddiqui was laid to rest late at night in a cemetery adjacent to Jamia Millia Islamia, the university from which he graduated in New Delhi. Reporters held photographs of him in his press vest during a candlelight vigil. "Danish Siddiqui, Killed in Afghanistan," the text read simply.