Reuters Photographer Danish Siddiqui, Afghan Officer Killed in Border Fight with Taliban

Reuters Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Danish Siddiqui and a senior Afghan officer were killed Friday in Taliban crossfire, the Associated Press reported.

"We are urgently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region," Reuters President Michael Friedenberg and Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni stated.

As Siddiqui was an Indian national, Afghanistan's ambassador to India, Farid Mamundzay, tweeted his condolences. "Deeply disturbed by the sad news of the killing of a friend, Danish Seddiqi in Kandahar last night," he said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Reuters Photographer, Afghan Officer Killed in Crossfire
Paramedics treat men injured during fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban fighters, at a hospital in Chaman, a Pakistani town in the border with Afghanistan, on July 16, 2021. A Reuters photographer and an Afghan officer were killed in the Taliban crossfire. Asghar Achakzai/Getty Images

Afghan government forces battled Friday to retake a border crossing with Pakistan from Taliban insurgents.

The Taliban had overrun the Spin Boldak crossing earlier in the week. On Friday, witnesses on the Pakistan side of the border said they saw intense fighting and reported seeing bodies.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian later tweeted that the government had retaken control of Spin Boldak.

The Taliban have overrun dozens of districts in Afghanistan since the start of the final phase of the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops, after a 20-year military presence. The U.S. says its withdrawal is 95 percent complete.

The fighting at Spin Boldak was confirmed by Fawad Aman, Afghanistan's deputy defense ministry spokesman. The Associated Press also obtained footage of fighters, apparently Taliban, receiving treatment in a hospital in the Pakistani border town of Chaman.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan are fraught with suspicion. Afghanistan routinely accuses Pakistan of giving safe haven to the Afghan Taliban, whose leadership is headquartered in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan provincial capital of Quetta. The Chaman border crossing opposite Spin Boldak is also in Baluchistan province.

Afghanistan and the United States have criticized Pakistan in the past for allowing Taliban fighters to cross into Pakistan to receive medical treatment. Nearly 2 million Afghan refugees also live in Pakistan, having fled decades of war in their homeland.

Pakistan has used its influence over the Taliban to press the insurgents into talks with the U.S. and the Afghan government.

In the latest round of accusations, Afghanistan's vice-president, Amrullah Saleh, tweeted that Pakistan's air force warned the Afghan army and air force against trying to dislodge Taliban from Spin Boldak, an accusation Pakistan dismissed.

In response, Pakistan issued a statement saying 40 Afghan soldiers slipped across the border to Pakistan during the Taliban takeover of the crossing earlier this week.

The soldiers were returned to Afghanistan "with respect and dignity," said the statement, which added that Pakistan also offered Afghanistan's security force any logistical support it needed.

Reuters Photographer, Afghan Officer Killed in Crossfire
A Pakistani paramedic treats men, who were injured in a fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban in Spin Boldak border area, at a hospital in Chaman, Pakistan, Friday, July 16, 2021. Afghan government security forces were battling to retake the southeastern Spin Boldak border crossing with neighbor Pakistan Friday, according to Afghanistan's deputy defense ministry spokesman Fawad Awan. Tariq Achakzai/Associated Press