KABUL—A former journalist who worked for Afganistan’s finance ministry was shot dead by gunmen in the southern city of Kandahar on Thursday, provincial officials said, as violence mounted across the country amid a U.S. troop withdrawal.
No group immediately claimed responsibility but government officials and Western powers usually blame Taliban insurgents for such attacks, which they deny.
Nimat Rawan, a former news anchor at ToloNews, Afghanistan’s largest private television station, was shot dead on Thursday morning, provincial police spokesman Jamal Naser said. Police were investigating, he said.
Many similar killings have taken place in recent months, often targeting journalists, civil society activists, government officials, and judges.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied the terrorist group was behind the shooting of Rawan in Kandahar. In tweets on Wednesday, Mujahid had warned against “propaganda and one-sided broadcasts” by some media outlets.
“If this continues, the responsibility for the next steps will fall on the media officials and its staff themselves,” he said.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack and said the attackers could not the silence the people’s freedom of speech.
Afghan security forces are locked in daily combat with the Taliban, which has waged war to overthrow the foreign-backed government since it was ousted from power in Kabul in 2001.
The United States has begun to pull out its forces under an agreement reached with the Taliban in talks last year, although it has missed a May 1 withdrawal deadline. Critics of President Joe Biden’s decision to bring the troops home say the Taliban will try to sweep back into power.
In just two days, the Taliban captured a second district in the northern province of Baghlan on Thursday, provincial police spokesman Jawed Basharat said.
Six Afghan security forces were killed in a Taliban night-time attack on their outpost in the central province of Ghazni, a local official said.
The Afghan government says the Taliban have killed and wounded more than 50 troops in attacks in at least 26 provinces during the last 24 hours, while its forces killed dozens of Taliban over the same period.
By Hamid Shalizi