Tensions flare as Taliban gun down top Afghan govt official
The Taliban shot dead the head of the Afghan government’s media information centre on Friday near a mosque in Kabul, days after warning that they would target top administration figures in retaliation for increased airstrikes. The killing of one of the government’s leading voices follows a bloody day of fighting in Afghanistan.
In another major blow for the Afghan government, a police spokesman in southern Nimroz province said the capital Zaranj has fallen to the insurgents.
“The savage terrorists have committed a cowardly act once again and martyred a patriotic Afghan,” interior ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai said of the death of Dawa Khan Menapal. Menapal used to openly slam the Taliban.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the death, with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid saying the killing was a “special attack carried out by the mujahideen”.
Fighting in Afghanistan has intensified since May, when foreign forces began the final stage of a withdrawal.
Taliban capture first provincial capital
The Taliban on Friday captured their first provincial capital since launching an offensive to coincide with the departure of foreign troops, a major blow to an Afghan government desperately trying to push back the insurgents. “Zaranj, provincial capital of Nimroz, has fallen to the Taliban,” Roh Gul Khairzad, the deputy governor of Nimroz, told AFP. She said the city - in southwest Afghanistan near the Iranian border - had been taken “without a fight”, and social media showed clips of insurgents roaming the streets, being cheered by residents.
Don’t trust the Taliban: Afghan envoy to China
Afghanistan’s envoy to China has questioned Taliban’s pledge to Beijing on not harbouring militants seeking to separate Xinjiang. “I don’t think even China believes in that (the promise),” Javid Ahmad Qaem told Reuters in an interview in Beijing, adding that the Taliban were “only saying this to get regional support”.
(With inputs from Sutirtho Patranobis)