Three women who worked for an Afghan television station have been shot dead in the eastern city of Jalalabad, the latest in a string of targeted assassinations that are increasingly overshadowing US-brokered attempts to negotiate an end to the country’s civil war.
Zalmai Latifi, the director at Enikass TV, said the women worked in the station’s dubbing department and were killed in two separate attacks. “They are all dead. They were going home from the office on foot when they were shot,” he told Agence France-Presse.
Another woman was injured in the shootings and taken to hospital, where she was in critical condition.
The women were high school students who worked part-time at Enikass, according to Orzala Ashraf Nemat, head of the AREU thinktank based in Kabul.
“[This is] an absolute shameful and deliberate act of terror. Please don’t condemn it only, take action to stop this bloodshed,” she said on Twitter.
The assassinations came less than three months after Malala Maiwand, a prominent civil society activist and anchor for the same media outlet was shot dead in her car on her morning commute.
The provincial police chief, Juma Gul Hemat, said an armed suspect with Taliban links had been arrested. The insurgent group denied any role in the attack.
Months of targeted assassinations, carried out with grim regularity in urban centres across Afghanistan, have terrorised journalists, human rights campaigners, civil society activists, and others working towards the type of democratic society that the Taliban reject.
Some targets have been prominent figures but others appear to have been chosen simply for their jobs or because of what they represent.
The Taliban have denied responsibility for most of the killings, but they have been widely seen as a powerful campaign to demoralise their critics.
“The targeted killing of journalists could cause a state of fear in the journalistic community, and this could lead to self-censorship, abandonment of media activities, and even leaving the country,” Mujib Khalwatgar, the head of Afghan media advocacy group Nai, told Reuters.
The US embassy in Kabul, which in January condemned the assassinations and said it considered the Taliban responsible for “the majority of this targeted violence”, described the latest attacks as part of a campaign of intimidation.
“[These attacks] are intended to make reporters cower; the culprits hope to stifle freedom of speech in a nation where the media has flourished during the past 20 years. This cannot be tolerated.”
The US president, Joe Biden, is reviewing plans for a full US troop withdrawal that he inherited from Donald Trump, as peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government continue in Doha.
Critics of the talks fear that the insurgents are more interested in playing for time than ending the war, and aim to ultimately take the entire country by force once the Afghan army can no longer count on the support of the US military.
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