It has been two weeks since Reuters photojournalist Danish Siddiqui was killed while covering the war in Afghanistan, but the details leading up to his killing remain fuzzy. Neither the Afghan forces nor the Indian government has yet detailed the exact circumstances of the killing which shocked Indian and international media fraternities.
Independent journalist Ruchi Kumar, based in Kabul, for Newslaundry about how the Taliban had initially refused to hand over Siddiqui’s body. Kumar spoke with Ahmad Lodin, an Afghan journalist and head of Afghan Orband Weekly, who said the Taliban had killed Siddiqui and kept his body. When the body was finally returned after much negotiation, Lodin said they found that it had been “disrespected” and “mutilated”.
Today, an in the conservative US magazine Washington Examiner by Michael Rubin, a resident at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, alleged that Siddiqui “was not simply killed in a crossfire, nor was he simply collateral damage; rather, he was brutally murdered by the Taliban”.
Rubin’s sources are unnamed: “local Afghan authorities”, “local investigation”, “a source in the Indian government”. His piece was picked up by several leading Indian news outlets such as the , , , and .
Though the Examiner marked Rubin’s piece as “Opinion”, the Indian news outlets that picked it up referred to it as a “report”.
In his piece, Rubin claims that Siddiqui was travelling embedded with an Afghan National Army contingent when he was hit by shrapnel. He, along with the soldiers, “went to a local mosque where he received first aid”.
“As word spread, however, that a journalist was in the mosque, the Taliban attacked. The local investigation suggests the Taliban attacked the mosque only because of Siddiqui’s presence there. Siddiqui was alive when the Taliban captured him,” Rubin writes. “The Taliban verified Siddiqui’s identity and then executed him, as well as those with him."
He further claims to have “reviewed other photographs and a video of Siddiqui’s body provided to me by a source in the Indian government that show the Taliban beat Siddiqui around the head and then riddled his body with bullets”.
It’s worth pointing out that Rubin was named in a 2014 as being one of the “friendly reporters” successfully targeted by a US-Israel coalition “to plant anti-Qatar stories”.
Meanwhile, prime minister Narendra Modi has not yet said a word of condolence on Siddiqui’s killing. Neither has India’s external affairs minister issued a statement seeking justice and accountability from the international community and UN bodies which are currently engaged with the Taliban.