Swedish journalist Nils Horner murdered execution-style in Kabul as Afghanistan prepares for fresh violence ahead of its presidential elections



A Swedish journalist with dual British nationality was shot and killed in central Kabul this morning as the country braced itself for a surge in violence ahead of next month’s presidential elections.

Nils Horner, 51, was shot in the head with a silenced pistol while on his way to interview the survivor of a Taliban attack. The daylight shooting was in one of the capital’s most distinguished districts, Wazir Akbar Khan, where many diplomats and ex patriots have their homes and offices.

Mr Horner was Asia Correspondent for the Swedish public radio station, Sveriges Radios, and lived in Hong Kong. He had only been in Kabul for a couple of days when the attack happened but had previously reported from Afghanistan in 2001 when the Taliban were ousted from power.

Experts last night said an attack of this kind was unprecedented. The reasons behind it are still unclear, and the Taliban have so far maintained that they are not responsible. But its timing – and the fact that Mr Horner was on his way to interview a victim of their last attack on Kabul ex-pats – suggests they could be behind it.

Mr Horner was shot while walking down the street in the diplomatic district at 11.15 this morning after getting out of a Toyota Corolla around 100 yards from a luxury supermarket. He was on his way to interview a kebab chef on the site of a Taliban attack the man survived in January, when 21 people, 13 of whom were foreigners, were killed in a popular Lebanese restaurant.

The shooting took place just as a state funeral was concluding for vice-president Mohammad Qasim Fahim, who died at the weekend from a long-running heart problem. Security forces were already on high-alert and several streets near the shooting had been closed for Fahim’s funeral procession. Ordinarily there would be a strong police presence in Wazir Akbar Khan, but the security forces were focused on the route.

The gunmen have not been found by police though Mr Horner’s driver and translator, who were unharmed, are being held for questioning.

The attack comes less than a month before Afghanistan goes to the polls in the first round of voting for the presidential elections on 5 April. The Taliban pledged on Monday that they would do all they could to derail proceedings.

In their most explicit statement yet of their intention to disrupt the 2014 ballot, a Taliban spokesman warned Afghan citizens not to take part in the vote, saying: “We have given orders to our Mujahideen to use all force at their disposal to disrupt the upcoming sham elections and to target all workers, activists, callers, security apparatus and offices.”

Kate Clark of the Kabul-based think-tank, Afghanistan Analysts Network, said it was too early to say if there is a trend for targeting westerners in the city, since the attack was unique and the Taliban had not claimed responsibility. She said: “I think it’s an unprecedented case, someone being killed like this in broad daylight in Kabul. Not out on the margins of the city, but in the heart of the city.”

She said the Taliban denial should not necessarily be taken at face value but that the killing was out of keeping with their usual strategies. “The way he was killed with a gun with a silencer is not Taliban tactics,” she said. “It may not have been to do with him, it may have been a mistaken identity. He would have been a very strange Taliban target.”

Election-related violence has been increasing, with campaigners for the leading presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, particularly targeted. Two of his campaigners were shot dead in the western city of Herat last month as they left their office, while his motorcade has been ambushed by gunmen.

Mahmood Gailani, a former MP and head of Dr Abdullah’s election campaign, told The Independent he expects violence to increase as the ballot gets closer. “It might get worse in a few days,” he said. “If they want to disturb the elections, now is a good time.”

Dr Abdullah is the only candidate so far who has publicly endorsed signing an agreement for a continued American military presence after Nato forces withdraw at the end of the year. Mr Gailani said this was causing his team to be victimised: “The main target is our team. Up until now there hasn’t been any incident or attack on the others.”

Additional reporting Aleem Agha

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor