Appeal for son of slain correspondent

Abuzar Ahmad smiles in his hospital bed in Kabul, March 28, 2014. (AFP Photo/Edouard Guihaire)

Abuzar Ahmad smiles in his hospital bed in Kabul, March 28, 2014. (AFP Photo/Edouard Guihaire)

After a senior Afghan correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP) and several members of his family were killed in a terrorist attack in the country last month, the news organisation is raising funds to support his surviving son.

According to numerous reports, on March 20 at around 8.30pm, four armed men in the Serena Hotel in Kabul opened fire on occupants killing nine people, including Sardar Ahmad, his wife Humaira and two of their three children, 6-year-old daughter Nelofar and 5-year-old son Omar.

Mr Ahmad’s younger son, two-year-old Abuzar, was the only member of his family to survive the attack  after overcoming serious wounds. He will move to Toronto, Canada, after he makes a full recovery, where he will live with members of his extended family.

Marc Lavine, AFP’s editor-in-chief for the Asia Pacific and Mr Ahmad’s editor for the past 15 months, said that Abuzar’s condition has improved remarkably since the incident and that his recovery had been the lone bright spot in an utterly tragic circumstance.

“He received three wounds, bullet fragments, to the head, torso and leg and, I mean, he’s not even three years old, so the physical trauma, let alone the mental trauma, is absolutely horrific,” Mr Lavine said. “But nonetheless, I was in Kabul just after the attack and saw him in hospital and it was really remarkable.

“A week after the attack he was sitting up in bed and smiling, he’s incredibly tough. His physical recovery has been tremendous considering how critical his condition was. It’s absolutely amazing to see him sitting up in bed and playing with his toys a week afterwards.

“It will take a while to fully recover, he’s still not walking and he’ll need some sort of physical rehabilitation as well, but given the extent and gravity of his injuries it was pretty remarkable.”

In the wake of the violent killing of Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus and the shooting of Swedish reporter Nils Horner in Afghanistan in the last few months, the country has increasingly become a hotbed for violence towards journalists during this recent election campaign. International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reports note that the Taliban has pledged to undertake a campaign of violence to disrupt the presidential elections and that this has directly affected journalists working in the region.

Mr Lavine said that this was “one of the darkest periods that we’ve gone through at AFP”.

“I think Sardar’s tragic and brutal death was deeply shocking to the entire company, to journalists not only in Kabul but all over the world,” he said.

“It’s the ultimate price that journalists can pay in the line of duty and your worst nightmare is that it could happen to you and unfortunately it did.

“Sardar was our senior correspondent in Kabul and had been so for more than eight years. He was one of the best known and best respected Afghan journalists in Kabul. He was the point of reference for most foreign correspondents going into Afghanistan simply because of his incredible range of contacts and for his uncompromising stance and reporting.”

Funds collected in AFP’s donation drive will be used to bolster Abuzar’s future needs and the response so far has been positive, according to Mr Lavine. Abuzar recently left hospital and is currently living with extended family members in Kabul, before he moves to Canada.

Those wishing to donate to the AFP’s donation drive for Abuzar Ahmad can do so at this page and an AFP blog post with further details about the situation can be accessed here.

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