By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Afghanistan government’s top media and information officer has been assassinated in the capital city of Kabul.
Dawa Khan Menapal, who was the director of Government Media and Information Centre (GMIC), was shot dead at a mosque in the capital, the Afghan government said.
The Taliban claimed the hit, days after the militant group warned it would target senior administration officials in retaliation for increased air strikes.
“Unfortunately, the savage terrorists have committed a cowardly act once again and martyred a patriotic Afghan,” interior ministry spokesperson Mirwais Stanikzai said of the death of Menapal.
The Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid sent a message to media saying: “He was killed in a special attack carried out by mujahideen”.
Menapal had also served as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesperson.
Government Leaders Targeted
Fighting in Afghanistan’s long-running conflict has intensified since May, when foreign forces began the final stage of a withdrawal due to be completed later this month.
The Taliban already control large portions of the countryside and are now challenging Afghan government forces in several large cities.
The militants warned on Wednesday of more attacks targeting Afghan government leaders, a day after the defense minister escaped an assassination attempt in Kabul.
The bomb-and-gun attack on Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi Tuesday night brought the war to the capital for the first time in months.
The Afghan and US militaries have stepped up air strikes in their fight against the insurgents in a string of cities, and the Taliban said Wednesday the Kabul raid was their response.
Taliban Closing In On Provincial Capitals
Taliban fighters on Friday intensified clashes with Afghan forces and targeted militias allied with the government, officials said, stretching their dominance of border towns and closing in on two provincial capitals as foreign forces leave.
At least 10 Afghan soldiers and a commander of armed members belonging to the Abdul Rashid Dostum militia group in the northern province of Jowzjan were killed.
“The Taliban launched violent attacks on the outskirts of (provincial capital) Sheberghan this week and during heavy clashes a pro-government militia forces’ commander loyal to Dostom was killed,” said Abdul Qader Malia, the deputy governor of Jowzjan province.
Another provincial council member said nine of the 10 districts of Jowzjan were now controlled by the Taliban and the contest to control Sheberghan was under way.
In southern Helmand province, damage to civilian property aggravated the humanitarian crisis as shops caught fire in a week-long battle to control the capital of Lashkar Gah.
The United Nations this week said it was deeply concerned about the safety of tens of thousands of people trapped in Lashkar Gah.
“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.
The Lashkar Gah office of aid group Action Against Hunger was hit by a bomb during fighting in the area on Thursday.
“Civilians find themselves in between warring parties. They are being displaced from their homes and are often the first victims of the conflict,” said Mike Bonke, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Afghanistan.