The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom today paid tribute to journalist Sardar Ahmad, one of several people killed during last week?s attack on the Serena Hotel in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Mr. Ahmad, a senior reporter for Agence France Presse, died along with his wife and two of their three children when gunmen stormed the hotel during the Nowruz celebrations on Thursday. Nine people in total lost their lives.

?I am deeply saddened by the news of this vicious attack and my heartfelt condolences go out to the families of all the victims,? Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said in a news release.

?This is not only a human tragedy. It is also an affront to the will of the Afghan people to build a peaceful and open society,? she added.

Ms. Bokova stated that Mr. Ahmad was one of those contributing to this effort, through his work as a journalist, contributing to the free flow of information, which is essential for dynamic, sustainable and stable societies.

?His loss will be keenly felt by all those courageous media workers striving for this goal, too often at the risk of their lives. I urge the Afghan authorities to do their utmost to bring those responsible for this crime to justice.?

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