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Taliban captures provincial capital, assassinates government’s senior media officer

While the head of the government media and information center was killed by the Taliban, clashes between the group and Afghan government forces have intensified.

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On Friday, the Taliban killed Daha Khan Menapal, the government media and information center head, in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. The Taliban spokesperson and Afghan officials confirmed the incident. The assassination came after the Taliban threatened that senior administration officials would be targeted as a response to accelerated airstrikes.

Speaking upon the incident, Afghan Interior Ministry Spokesperson Mirwais Stanikzai told: “Unfortunately, the savage terrorists have committed a cowardly act once again and martyred a patriotic Afghan.”

“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,” the spokesperson added.

The killing of Menapal came as the latest incident in a string of assassinations intended to undermine President Ashraf Ghani’s democratically elected government.

US Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson expressed his deep sadness at the assassination of Menapal. Posting a message on his Twitter account following the incident, the US diplomat said, “These murders are an affront to Afghans’ human rights and freedom of speech.”

Meanwhile, Afghan security officials confirmed that Zaranj, the capital of the southern province of Nimruz, was captured by the Taliban on Friday. With this, Zaranj has been the first provincial capital that the group has taken from the Afghan government.

According to a Nimruz police spokesperson, Zaranj fell to the Taliban due to a shortage of reinforcements from the Western-backed administration. According to a local source, the group has taken control of the governor’s office, police headquarters, and a camp near the Iranian border.

On the other hand, the Taliban was reportedly celebrating Zaranj’s fall. A Taliban military official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters that Zaranj is strategically important due to its location on the border with Iran. “This is the beginning, and you will see how other provinces fall in our hands very soon,” he said.

Clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces have escalated around other provincial capitals. According to a provincial council member of the northern province of Jowzjan, the group is holding control of nine of the 10 districts of Jowzjan. Additionally, the clashes are continuing in the southern Helmand province to take control of the capital of Lashkar Gah.

The UN Security Council gathered on Friday to discuss the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. The Security Council came together in an open meeting, which comes upon the request of the Afghan government as well as Norway and Estonia.

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