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AFP reporter, family among nine killed in Kabul

KABUL--At least nine civilians including an Agence France-Presse reporter, children and foreigners were killed in a Taliban attack on a luxury hotel in Kabul, officials said Friday, just weeks before a presidential election.

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

Sardar Ahmad, a 40-year-old journalist in AFP's Kabul bureau, was among those killed along with his wife and two of their three children.

An AFP 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.

Ahmad joined AFP in 2003 and became the agency's senior reporter in Kabul. He covered all aspects of life, war and politics in his native Afghanistan for the international news agency.

“This is an immensely painful and enormous loss for Agence France-Presse,” AFP chairman Emmanuel Hoog said.

He described Ahmad as a “dedicated and courageous journalist, a cornerstone of our team in Afghanistan who delivered, every day, exceptional coverage of the news in extremely difficult conditions.”

Ahmad's 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 he himself broke last year.

“Sardar was not only among the very finest journalists in Afghanistan, but also a wonderfully optimistic and engaging personality,” AFP editor-in-chief Phil Chetwynd said.

“He has been the pillar of our bureau for the past decade and a great friend to many AFP colleagues,” he said. “He was also a tremendously proud father and husband. This is an unspeakable tragedy.”

The attackers reached the hotel's restaurant around 8:30 pm (1600 GMT) and began firing indiscriminately at diners, Sediqqi said.

Nine people were killed in the assault, five Afghans and four foreigners, he said, and the dead included four women and two children.

One of the civilians killed in the attack was a former Paraguayan diplomat who was in Afghanistan as an election observer, Paraguay's Foreign Minister Eladio Loizaga said.

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