Kabul: Afghan militants killed the head of Afghanistan's government media center on Friday, Kabul, in the latest killing by the Taliban from the war-torn country of Afghanistan.
The indiscriminate killing by the militants comes in the midst of Taliban advances in the nation, to uphold their vested interest to take complete control of the nation. Taliban took over their first provincial capital Zaranj, putting a major halt to the ongoing peace talks between the militant group and government officials.
The province's governor, Abdul Karim Barahawi, fled Zaranj and took refuge in the peaceful Chahar Burjak district. The local Baluch population here has provided him protection.
The Taliban have been advancing for months in Afghanistan, taking swaths of land as U.S. and NATO forces complete their final pullout from the country by the end of the month. The militants have been taking forward their killing spree by taking control of various key cities and provinces, cutting off government intervention.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told the Associated press that the rebels Dawa Khan Menapal, Afghan Government’s chief for local and foreign media. He had earlier been a deputy spokesperson for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
According to the Interior Ministry’s deputy spokesperson, the assassination took place during weekly Friday Prayers in the capital.
Following the shooting, Afghan Forces spread across the neighborhood where Menapal was killed while riding in his car. Menapal was killed in a special attack. A statement on the same was released by Mujahid who claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Taliban often target government officials and those they perceive as working for the government or foreign forces, though several recent attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State group.
Earlier this week, the Taliban targeted the country's acting defense minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, by carrying out a bomb attack in a heavily guarded upscale Kabul neighborhood, late Tuesday. The minister escaped unharmed though at least eight people were killed and 20 others wounded in the bomb attack.
In the southern city of Kandahar, the capital of the province with the same name, hundreds are sheltering in makeshift camps, wondering where they will get food for their children. In Lashkar Gah, the shuttered office of Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization, was hit in an airstrike on Thursday, the group said in a statement. Fighting had forced the organization to close its office last week.
More than half of Afghanistan's 421 districts and district centers are now in Taliban hands. While many of the districts are in remote regions, some are deeply strategic, giving the Taliban control of lucrative border crossings with Iran, Tajikistan, and Pakistan.
Deborah Lyons, the U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, said on Friday that the human toll of the worsening fighting was deeply disturbing.
“The war in Afghanistan has entered a new, deadlier, and more destructive phase," she said, speaking to an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council virtually from Kabul. “The provincial capitals of Kandahar, Herat, and Lashkar Gah, in particular, have come under significant pressure. This is a clear attempt by the Taliban to seize urban centers with the force of arms."
“The human toll of this strategy is extremely distressing — and the political message is even more deeply disturbing,” she said, adding that in just 10 days in Lashkar Gah, 104 civilians were killed. Lyons appealed on the council to send a strong signal “that it is essential to stop fighting and negotiate, in that order.”
“Otherwise, there may be nothing left to win,” she said.
Last month, Afghanistan took control of the town of Spin Boldak, one of the busiest border crossings in Afghanistan. Thousands of Afghans and Pakistani locals, traders pass through this border daily.
The Taliban closed the crossing over a visa dispute, saying Pakistan was abiding by Kabul government requirements for Afghans traveling into Pakistan to have a passport and a Pakistan visa. Previously, travel documents were rarely demanded and Afghans with local ID cards could cross into Pakistan.
“The border will stay closed until Pakistan allows all Afghans to cross on the basis of our old procedure,” said a Taliban statement.
Traders said about 1,500 people were waiting on both sides on the border to pass through. More than 600 trucks, many loaded with perishable fresh foods, were backed up in both countries.