By Kaamil Ahmed
JERUSALEM (AA) - The first messages posted on Zabihullah Tamanna’s Facebook page early Monday morning were desperate requests for him to provide a sign of life, something to prove he was not one of two journalists killed in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan.
The messages later turned to declarations of mourning. Friends and fellow journalists turned their Facebook profile pictures black and shared pictures of Zabihullah, 38, reporting in the field or sharing meals with colleagues.
Many lamented that Zabihullah, who was a regular freelancer for Anadolu Agency, had been killed at the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and that they would not have another chance to break their fasts together.
He was working as an interpreter with American photojournalist David Gilkey for the U.S.'s National Public Radio (NPR) when the army convoy they were travelling in was hit by a Taliban attack that killed them both on Sunday.
Gilkey has been remembered as a photographer who documented the human effect of war. Likewise, Zabihullah sought to share the many sides of Afghan society, whether through his own reporting for Anadolu Agency or in supporting foreign journalists like Gilkey.
Many of those posting messages affectionately referred to Zabihullah as Doctor. He had been training as a pediatrician until the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan saw him switch to working alongside foreign journalists to tell the world of the devastating effect the conflict was having on his country.
As the violence eased slightly, he chose not to return to his medical studies and instead continued working as a journalist while taking night classes for a degree in law and political science.
Zabihullah first worked with Anadolu Agency during the Taliban siege of Kabul airport in July 2014, when his impressive reporting led to him becoming a regular fixture on the English news team, covering major stories such as the presidential election, the death of Taliban founder Mullah Omar and the rise of Daesh in Afghanistan.
He also wrote about efforts to empower women economically, communal solutions to wedding expenses and the long, dangerous journeys young Afghans risked to get to Europe.
Political tensions and two of the worst years of Taliban violence since 2001 meant Zabihullah usually wrote several stories a day. On one unusual day when he had not, he e-mailed: “Nothing special so far. Sometimes no news is good news.”
*Kaamil Ahmed worked closely with Zabihullah Tamanna in his previous role as South Asia chief reporter.