NEW YORK – Agence France-Presse won its first Pulitzer Prize on Monday as Afghan photographer Massoud Hossaini scooped up the honor in breaking news photography.
Hossaini, 30, was awarded a Pulitzer, the most prestigious US journalism prize, for his “heartbreaking image of a girl crying in fear after a suicide bomber’s attack at a crowded shrine in Kabul,” the Pulitzer committee said.
Hossaini’s picture of an Afghan girl standing among a pile of dead bodies captured the devastation in the immediate aftermath of the attack on a Shiite shrine.
Hossaini — who joined AFP in 2007 — was just meters (yards) away when the bomb went off on December 6, 2011, killing at least 70 people.
In an interview with AFP at the time, Hossaini described what happened.
“I was just looking at my camera when suddenly there was a big explosion,” he said. “For a moment I didn’t know anything, I just felt the wave of the explosion as a pain inside my body. I fell down on the ground.
“I saw everybody running away from the smoke. I sat up and saw my hand was bleeding but I didn’t feel any pain,” he said.
“It’s my job to know what is going on so I ran in the opposite direction to everybody else,” Hossaini continued. “When the smoke went away I saw I was standing in the centre of a circle of dead bodies.
“They were all together on top of each other. I was standing exactly where the suicide attacker had been.”
Hossaini said he was in “shock” and initially “didn’t know what to do.
“I just started clicking,” he said. “I know that I was crying. It was really weird crying, I’ve never reacted like that before.
“I didn’t help anybody, because I couldn’t, I was really in shock,” he said. “I knew I should cover this, record everything, all the pain, the people running, crying, shouting, beating their chests, shouting: ‘Death to Al-Qaeda, death to the Taliban!’”
Hossaini said he turned to the right and saw the girl, Tarana, whose age has been given as either 10 or 12.
“When Tarana saw what had happened to her brother, her cousins, uncles, mother, grandmother, the people around her, she was just shouting,” he said.
“She did a lot of things, but if you see my pictures she was just shouting. This shocked reaction was the main thing I wanted to capture,” he said.