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Taliban assassinate Afghan gov’t top media officer in Kabul, take provincial capital

Kabul, August 6

Taliban militants on Friday assassinated the Afghan government’s top media officer in Kabul, dealing a high-profile blow to the Western-backed administration following battlefield gains by the Islamist group as foreign forces leave.

The killing of Dawa Khan Menapal, head of the Government Media and Information Centre, was the latest in a series aimed at weakening President Ashraf Ghani’s democratically elected government.

In a tweet, US Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson said he was saddened and disgusted by the death of Menapal, whom he called a friend who provided truthful information to all Afghans.

“These murders are an affront to Afghans’ human rights amp; freedom of speech,” he said.

Scores of social activists, journalists, bureaucrats, judges and public figures fighting to sustain a liberal Islamic administration have been assassinated by Taliban fighters in a bid to silence voices of dissent in the war-torn country.

Fighting to reimpose strict Islamic law after their 2001 ousting by U.S.-led forces, the Taliban have stepped up their campaign to defeat the U.S.-backed government as foreign forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.

An official in the federal interior ministry said “the savage terrorists killed” Menapal during Friday prayers.

“He (Menapal) was a young man who stood like a mountain in the face of enemy propaganda, and who was always a major supporter of the (Afghan) regime,” said Mirwais Stanikzai, a spokesperson of the interior ministry.

Taliban take provincial capital Zaranj

Meanwhile, a police spokesman in southern Nimroz province said the capital Zaranj had fallen to the hardline Islamists because of a lack of reinforcements from the government.

Fighting to reimpose strict Islamic law after their 2001 ousting by US-led forces, the Taliban have intensified their campaign to defeat the US-backed government as foreign forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.

The insurgents have taken dozens of districts and border crossings in recent months and put pressure on several provincial capitals, including Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south, as foreign troops withdraw.

Zaranj was the first provincial capital to fall to the group since the United States reached a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 for a US troop pullout. A local source said the Taliban had seized the governor’s office, the police headquarters and an ecampment near the Iranian border.

Taliban sources said the group was celebrating, and Zaranj’s fall would boost the morale of their fighters in other provinces. A Taliban commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it has strategic importance as it is on the border with Iran.

“This is the beginning and see how other provinces fall in our hands very soon,” he said. — Reuters

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