Taliban fighters mutilated the body of world-renowned Reuters photographer, Danish Siddiqui, after he died reporting on the frontlines of the conflict in Afghanistan this month, officials have said.
The 38-year-old was killed while covering an attempt by the Afghan special forces to retake a key border crossing with Pakistan in the midst of a surge of brutal Taliban military offensives that have surged since the US withdrew nearly all of its troops.
An Afghan commander told Reuters that Mr Siddiqui - a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the news agency - was killed while talking to a shopkeeper in a market in Spin Boldak as the Taliban attacked.
Initial photographs of his body showed multiple wounds, but his body was still in tact and recognisable.
By the time his body left Taliban custody and was passed to the Red Cross, who took it to a hospital in Kandahar, it was riddled with nearly a dozen bullet holes and there were tire marks on his face and chest, Indian and Afghan officials told the New York Times.
The Taliban’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid denied the claims to the newspaper and said they were under orders to treat bodies with respect and hand them over to either local elders or the Red Cross.
The newspaper said it had reviewed multiple photographs that showed the body was “badly mutilated” and had seen photographs that appeared to show Taliban fighters standing around Mr Siddiqui’s body before it was attacked.
One health official in the Kandahar hospital that finally received his body told NYT that Mr Siddiqui’s face was unrecognisable and that they could not discern exactly what had been done to his body.
There are varying other accounts of how Mr Siddiqui came to be killed on July 16. One Indian official told NYT that his wounds showed close-range gun shots, while other local Afghan officials have said that he was killed alongside the unit commander when their convoy was ambushed.
Earlier in the day of his death, Mr Siddiqui had reported to his editors that he had sustained a shrapnel wound to the arm during a clash in Spin Boldak, but that he had been treated for the injury.
His body was flown back to New Delhi in a closed coffin two days after his death.