KABUL (Dispatches) – Taliban militants on Friday assassinated the Afghan government’s top media officer in Kabul, dealing a high-profile blow to the administration following battlefield gains by the group.
The killing of Dawa Khan Menapal, head of the Government Media and Information Center, was the latest in a series aimed at weakening President Ashraf Ghani’s government.
Scores of social activists, journalists, bureaucrats, judges and public figures have been assassinated by Taliban militants in a bid to silence voices of dissent in the war-torn country.
An official in the federal interior ministry said the militants 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) government,” said Mirwais Stanikzai, a spokesperson of the interior ministry.
The Taliban also killed at least 10 Afghan soldiers during heavy clashes to capture a provincial capital Sheberghan on Friday.
At least 10 Afghan soldiers and a commander of armed members belonging to the Abdul Rashid Dostum militia group, allied with the government, were killed in the northern province of Jowzjan.
“The Taliban launched violent attacks on the outskirts of Sheberghan this week and during heavy clashes a pro-government militia forces’ commander loyal to Dustom was killed,” said Abdul Qader Malia, the deputy governor of the province.
Violence has been surging across Afghanistan. The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan ousted the Taliban from power, but it worsened the security situation in the country.
In the meantime, another provincial council member said nine of the 10 districts of Jowzjan were now controlled by the Taliban.
The United Nations warned this week about the safety of tens of thousands of people trapped in the strategic city of Lashkar Gah — the capital of southern Helmand Province — as the Taliban intensified clashes with Afghan military forces to take control, there.
“Violence has only escalated and there is no way to assess the damage in Lashkar Gah as both sides are locked in an intense ground battle... it is hard to even recover bodies by aid agencies,” a senior Western security official said in Kabul.