KABUL -- The Afghan government said the Taliban were behind the deadly bombing of a bus carrying Khurshid TV employees on August 4, which observers widely condemned as an attack on freedom of expression and a crime against humanity.
No group claimed responsibility, but preliminary information shows that the Taliban perpetrated the bombing in Kabul, said the Interior Ministry.
Two civilians were killed, while three Khurshid TV personnel and four other people were injured, said the ministry.
"Our findings suggest that the attack on the bus ... was spearheaded by the Taliban," said Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.
"In most Taliban attacks, civilians are affected and killed, and this is why they don't take responsibility for certain attacks," Rahimi said. "Everyone knows that this terrorist group had targeted reporters and workers of media organisations in the past."
Khwaja Mir Muharram, a worker at Khurshid TV channel and one of the witnesses, described how the bombing unfolded.
"I usually leave the TV office for home after 5pm," he said. "My 11 co-workers and I were on the way home on the TV channel's bus."
"When we arrived at 5th Street in Taimani at 5.30pm, a powerful explosion suddenly happened and three of our co-workers, two men and one woman who were sitting in the front seats, were injured. Two bystanders were killed," said Muharram.
Prior to the blast, the Taliban had threatened to attack the media if they aired advertisements that encourage the public to support the security forces.
"The Taliban are against the voices of the people and freedom of expression," said Halima Sadaf Karimi, a member of parliament from Jawzjan Province. "This group is determined to silence freedom of expression by targeting reporters and workers of the media."
"The Taliban target media workers ... as they don't want their crimes against humanity to be disclosed to Afghans and people around the globe," Karimi added.
Returning to work
Undeterred by the terrorist act, employees at Khurshid TV channel insist they will continue their work.
"Although the Taliban's attack on the vehicle carrying my colleagues really hurt me, I am committed to continuing my journalistic work. Such attacks by the Taliban cannot prevent me from my reporting activities, and I will rely on God and continue to work as a journalist," said Zabihullah Doorandish, one of the reporters at Khurshid TV.
"Reporting is an independent and professional job, and we have always ensured impartiality and the ethics of journalism in our reports. We have produced and aired even the Taliban-related news with impartiality," Doorandish said.
"Unfortunately, this group [the Taliban] does not believe in freedom of expression and it tries to silence the media," he said. "But it has to understand that silencing freedom of expression is ... impossible."
The Afghan government, institutions that support the media and ambassadors of foreign countries called bombing a cowardly act, a war crime and an attack on freedom of expression.
"Freedom of expression is the biggest accomplishment of Afghans in the past two decades, which journalists achieved by sacrificing their blood," said Hafizullah Barakzai, director of the Afghan Journalists Council.
"Attacks on journalists and the media are a war crime and an expression of hostility toward freedom of expression. We strongly condemn them."
"Terrorist groups, like the Taliban and Daesh, perpetrate such attacks to impede media activities and create fear and violence in society," Barakzai said, using another name for the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
The president's office condemned the bombing and called it a war crime.
"The enemies of Afghanistan must know that the people of this land are always ready to defend their values and freedoms," the offices said in a statement quoting President Ashraf Ghani. "This kind of cowardly act can no longer weaken the determination of Afghans."
"Attacks on civilians and the media cannot help anyone to achieve any goals," tweeted John Bass, the US ambassador in Kabul. "I condemn the latest senseless attack on media professionals and send my deepest condolences to the victims and their families."
"Attacks on civilians and media serve no purpose. All sides must focus on peace and the future of Afghanistan," he said.