KABUL -- The Taliban had threatened an Afghan reporter who was killed in a car bombing this week for investigating their attacks, Human Rights Watch said.
Azadi Radio reporter Aliyas Dayee, 33, was killed on Thursday (November 12) when a sticky bomb attached to his car exploded in Lashkargah, Helmand Province, the scene of intense fighting in recent months.
Dozens of other journalists also had been threatened by the group, the United States-based rights group said in a statement late November 12.
Targeted killings of prominent figures, including journalists, clerics, politicians and rights activists, have become more common in recent months as violence surges in Afghanistan, despite peace talks between the government and the Taliban.
No group has claimed responsibility for the killing of Dayee.
Still, Dayee recently told HRW that he had received death threats, warning him to stop his reporting on Taliban military operations, it said.
"The Taliban had searched his house, questioned him about his movements, and asked local residents to report on his behaviour," journalists who knew Dayee told HRW, the statement added.
"The night before he was killed, Dayee had emailed a colleague saying he believed his life was in danger."
Helmand Province -- a Taliban stronghold -- has seen heavy clashes in recent weeks between the insurgents and government forces.
'A chilling message'
Dayee had been "explicitly" warned not to report on the Taliban's operations in the province or that the group was "violating the agreement" it signed with Washington in February that paved the way for withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan, HRW said.
Dozens of Afghan journalists have been threatened by the Taliban in recent months, said the rights watchdog.
"The killing of Elyas Dayee simply for doing his job sends a chilling message to the Afghan media that reporting on the Taliban puts them in grave danger," said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at HRW.
"This brutal killing of a journalist is nothing more than a cold-blooded execution and raises serious doubts about the protection of free expression in any peace deal with the Taliban," she continued.
Dayee's murder comes after Yama Siawash, a former Afghan television presenter, was killed last Saturday (November 7) in a similar bombing in Kabul.
The two murders come amid surging violence across Afghanistan, much of it unleashed by the Taliban as they attempt to gain leverage in seemingly stalled peace talks in Qatar.
Afghan officials, fellow journalists and international observers condemned the recent attacks.
The killing of Dayee is "an attack on freedom of speech", said High Council for National Reconciliation Chairman Abdullah Abdullah.
"I strongly condemn the killing of @DaRadioAzadi journalist Elyas Dayee in Helmand Prov. Targeting him constitutes an attack on freedom of press in AFG. I call on authorities to investigate the incident & protect journalists. My thoughts & prayers are with his family & colleagues," he said in a tweet November 12.
"What will the terrorists get by killing an innocent man? Journalism is not a crime. Serving Afghanistan is not a crime," Abubakar Siddique, a journalist at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, said in a Twitter post November 12.
"The killing of Elyas Dayee, a reporter for Azadi Radio, is a war crime. Journalists, media workers, and human rights defenders should never be targeted and must be allowed to carry out their work freely and without fear," Amnesty International South Asia said in a statement posted on Twitter November 12.
"These attacks must be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice," it added.