— An American journalist for NPR was killed on Sunday afternoon along with his Afghan translator in a Taliban ambush in southern Afghanistan
, the Afghan military confirmed. NPR also confirmed their deaths on Sunday.
The victims were identified as David Gilkey, a photographer and videographer who was part of a four-person NPR team embedded with Afghan Special Forces in Helmand Province, and his translator, Zabihullah Tamanna. The other two American journalists on the team were unhurt.
Mr. Gilkey was the first civilian American journalist killed during the 15-year-long Afghan conflict; since 1992, at least 27 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In 2010, James P. Hunter, a staff sergeant and journalist with the 101st Airborne Division, was killed by an improvised explosive device.
The journalists were in a five-vehicle special forces convoy driving on the main road from Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, to Marja when Taliban insurgents fired at the convoy with heavy weapons, said Shakil Ahmad, the spokesman for the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps in Helmand.
The vehicle carrying Mr. Gilkey and Mr. Tamanna was destroyed, Mr. Ahmad said. It was not immediately clear where the other two NPR journalists were at the time of the attack.
After a heavy firefight, the Afghan government forces recovered the victims’ bodies and retreated to a nearby Afghan police base, Mr. Ahmad said. The bodies were then flown to Camp Bastion, the corps headquarters, which was once the major American and British base in Helmand, late Sunday.
Mr. Gilkey was an award-winning journalist who had extensive experience covering conflicts in Gaza, South Africa, Iraq, the Balkans and Afghanistan.
After he covered the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Mr. Gilkey talked about his profession in a video.
“It’s not just reporting. It’s not just taking pictures,” he said. “It’s do those visuals, do the stories, do they change somebody’s mind enough to take action?”
The NPR team’s most recent report, Thursday on the network’s “Morning Edition” program, described American Army Special Forces troops working with their Afghan counterparts and using drones to hunt Taliban insurgents. Mr. Gilkey’s photographs accompanied an online version of the report.
The last foreign journalist killed in Afghanistan was Anja Niedringhaus, a German citizen and an Associated Press photographer, who was shot by a rogue policeman when she was covering the Afghan presidential election in 2014.
The NPR team also included Monika Evstatieva, the director of the “All Things Considered” program, and Tom Bowman, NPR’s Pentagon correspondent.