AFP reporter killed in Kabul hotel attack

Sardar Ahmad, a staff reporter at the Agence France-Presse news agency, was killed in a Taliban attack on Kabul's Serena hotel, it was confirmed Friday.

Ahmad, 40, was shot dead along with his wife and two of his three children when four teenage gunmen attacked the hotel on Thursday evening.

An AFP staff photographer identified the four bodies at a city hospital and said the family's youngest son was undergoing emergency treatment after being badly wounded in the attack.

Four teenage gunmen with pistols hidden in their socks managed to penetrate several layers of security to attack the hotel, a prestigious venue favoured by foreign visitors to the capital, on Thursday night.

The assault came on the eve of Nawroz, the Persian New Year which is a major holiday in Afghanistan, and the hotel was hosting special celebrations.

Hired in 2003 to cover daily briefings by the US-led coalition at Bagram airbase, Ahmad went on to become AFP's senior reporter in Kabul, covering all aspects of life, war and politics in his native country.

He was a specialist in security issues, with strong contacts on both the government and Taliban sides, allowing him to file balanced stories on the complex conflict wracking Afghanistan.

Ahmad was a versatile journalist with an eye for unexpected stories that opened a window on life in Afghanistan away from the bombs and blast walls.

His last feature for AFP, filed on Tuesday, was about a lion rescued by animal welfare officials from living on a rooftop in Kabul -- a follow-up to a story Ahmad himself broke last year.

His time covering the briefings at Bagram allowed Ahmad to achieve an impressive level of fluency in English -- and a distinctive American accent.

Outside AFP, Ahmad founded the successful Kabul Pressistan local news agency which provided fixing and translation services for numerous foreign reporters coming to Kabul.

A total of nine people were killed in Thursday's attack, officials said, including four foreigners.

The Afghan interior ministry spokesman said that while investigations were ongoing, the details of the assault pointed to a lapse of hotel security.

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