The Taliban ambushed and killed the Director of Afghanistan’s Government Media Centre yesterday in the capital, Kabul. It was the latest killing of a government official just days after an assassination attempt on the country’s acting Defence Minister. Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told an agency that the insurgents killed Dawa Khan Menapal, the Chief of the Afghan Government’s Press Operations for local and foreign media. He had previously been a Deputy Spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Earlier this week, a Taliban bombing targeted the acting Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi. The attack in a heavily guarded upscale Kabul neighborhood late Tuesday killed at least eight people and wounded 20. The minister was unharmed.
The Taliban yesterday appeared to have taken their first provincial capital – the city of Zaranj in southern Nimroz province. The government, however, claimed there was still fierce fighting around key infrastructure in the city and that Zaranj had not fallen. But, the Taliban posted images on social media showing insurgents inside the local airport and posing for photographs at the entrance to the city. Nimroz is sparsely populated in a region that’s mainly desert and Zaranj, the provincial capital, has about 50,000 residents. The province’s Governor Abdul Karim Barahawi fled Zaranj for refuge in the peaceful Chahar Burjak district, where the local ethnic Baluch population has given him protection.
The Taliban have been surging for months in Afghanistan, taking swaths of land as United States and NATO forces complete their final pullout from the country by the end of the month. Meanwhile, Afghan and U.S. aircraft pounded Taliban positions in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province yesterday, as the insurgents closed a major border crossing with neighboring Pakistan. The residents in Helmand’s contested provincial capital, Lashkar Gah said, airstrikes destroyed a market in the centre of the city – an area controlled by the Taliban. Afghan officials say the Taliban now control nine out of the 10 districts of the city.