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Afghanistan officials, activists decry Taliban killing of Tolo TV employees

Senior Afghan officials paid their respects to seven employees of the Tolo news channel, who were killed when a suicide bomber targeted their vehicle. The TV station is a Deutsche Welle media partner in Afghanistan.

The Taliban described its attack as revenge against the network for "spreading propaganda" on the insurgents.

"This was not just an attack on Tolo, but an attack on journalism," said Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Bari Jahani during the memorial service on Thursday.

At least 25 people were wounded and seven killed, including three young women, when a

suicide bomber detonated a car bomb

near a Tolo TV minibus. The Tolo vehicle was transporting the workers home during rush hour on Wednesday.

Most of the victims were working behind the scenes, in the graphic and dubbing departments of Afghanistan's most popular TV station.

Afghanistan Anschlag nahe der Russischen Botschaft in Kabul

The attack took place near the Russian embassy

The Taliban quickly claimed the responsibility for the blast, saying that the 24-hour news channel was attacked for "promoting obscenity, irreligiousness, foreign culture and nudity."

"Its workers were anti-jihad and anti-Islam elements trained by foreign intelligence toiling for the Americans," the group said in a statement.

The militants

first declared Tolo and 1TV,

another media outlet, as "military targets" in October, after the journalists reported that the Taliban were raping women in Kunduz.

Deutsche Welle mourns the victims

Both Tolo and 1TV are Deutsche Welle partners in Afghanistan. Deutsche Welle cooperates with Tolo many different areas, including the news production, relying on its expertise and contacts in the region.

The director general of Deutsche Welle Peter Limbourg also condemned the deadly attack.

"Speaking for Deutsche Welle employees, I would like to give our condolences to the relatives of the victims," Limbourg said.

"This tragic attack on human life is also a cowardly attempt to limit freedom of speech in Afghanistan. The courageous work by the Afghanistan journalists deserves our great respect," he said.

'War crime' adding to the danger

The Wednesday bombing is the first major attack on an Afghan media organization since 2001. However, the war-torn nation remains one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, with Reporters Without Borders ranking it 122 out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index.

On Thursday, the international group Human Rights Watch described the attack as an "atrocity designed to undermine Afghanistan's still-fragile media freedom."

"Designating journalists and other civilians as 'military targets' does not make them so, and deliberately attacking them constitutes a war crime," they said in a statement.

The European Union's mission in Afghanistan also called it a ""horrific crime and an indefensible attack on a civilian target."

dj/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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