When a Suicide Bombing Claims a Friend

By May Jeong—The New Yorker—May 1, 2018—

Rush hour is unpleasant the world over but in few places is it as deadly as the morning commute in Kabul. On Monday, a bomb went off in downtown Kabul, killing four passersby. A dozen members of the Kabul press corps rushed over to document the bloodshed that had become a routine part of their job. Forty minutes later, a second attacker, carrying a camera to blend in, detonated explosives that killed twenty-five people, including nine journalists, and wounded forty-five others, making Monday the deadliest day for Afghan media since the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan began, in 2001. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

Among the dead was Shah Marai, of Agence France-Presse. Marai began driving cars for AFP twenty-two years ago, and worked his way up to being the agency’s chief photographer in the country. Over the last two decades, Marai took over eighteen thousand pictures, images that helped shape how America and the West see, and perceive, Afghanistan.

I met Marai at the wake of a common friend, Ahmad Sardar, a journalist who was killed with his family during the Serena Hotel attack, in 2014. (That is another strange thing about these spectacular attacks—how myself and others used them to mark the passing of time.) Marai had taken to organizing the funeral and the rest in the aftermath of Sardar’s death, a duty I remember him performing with passion and grace.

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