MADRID – The coveted World Press Photo award for the Spot News Singles category was awarded on Monday to Pakistan-based european pressphoto agency (epa) contributor Jamal Taraqai for his coverage of a fatal bomb attack on a hospital near the border with Afghanistan.
The World Press Photo organization made the announcement from its Foundation in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
“I still don’t believe that I have won such a prestigious award. I am thankful to epa for providing me an international platform that led me to this award,” said the freelance photojournalist upon hearing the news of his win.
Taraqai’s winning image depicts the harrowing scene in the aftermath of an explosion that struck a group of lawyers who had gathered at a hospital in Quetta to pay their respects to the chief of the regional bar council, Anwar Kasi, who had been shot and killed earlier in the day in Quetta.
Taraqai arrived at the hospital to document the commemoration, but later acknowledged that he was nervous about covering the event, adding that the medical compound had been in the past been the target of attacks.
For that reason, he stayed by the corridor as the group of lawyers left the building.
“And it was then I heard a huge explosion and there was blood and bodies, people crying and I had to compose myself to take pictures and I knew it was my responsibility to portray this horrific news as a journalist to the world,” Taraqai said.
After narrowly escaping that fatal blast, Taraqai continued to work, photographing the stunned survivors as they set about recovering the bloodied and charred bodies strewn across the hospital courtyard.
The attack, which claimed the lives of 104 people including lawyers, two Pakistani journalists as well as a woman and a child, was later claimed by various Islamist groups active in the restive Balochistan region Pakistan.
Taraqai has contributed to epa since 2013 as a freelance photojournalist and remains associated with a local newspaper.
Based in Quetta, 900 kilometers (560 miles) west of Islamabad, he focuses on current events as well as daily life in this often unstable region of Pakistan.
In recent works, he has documented such sociopolitical developments as the regional push to eradicate polio in children, the Pakistani armed forces’ campaign against drugs and weapons smuggling as well as the effects of persistent sectarian violence.
He occasionally turns his lens to light news, recently depicting the local children’s’ reaction to unusually heavy snowfall in the region.
He began his media career in 1992 as a cartoonist in the Pashto language daily, Nawi Yond.
In 1998, he became a photojournalist for Awam news and has since gone on to collaborate with epa.