Taliban assassinate head of Afghan government's press office in his car outside a mosque in Kabul 

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Taliban militants assassinated the Afghan government’s top media officer in his car in Kabul on Friday, dealing a high-profile blow to the Western-backed administration following battlefield gains by the Islamist group. 

The killing of Dawa Khan Menapal, head of the Government Media and Information Centre, was the latest in a series of attacks aimed at weakening President Ashraf Ghani’s democratically elected government.

In a tweet, U.S. Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson said he was saddened and disgusted by the death of Menapal, whom he called a friend who provided truthful information to all Afghans.

‘These murders are an affront to Afghan human rights & freedom of speech,’ he said. 

'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,' said Mirwais Stanikzai, a spokesperson of the interior ministry. Above, Khan smiling in front of a photo of President Ashraf Ghani

‘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,’ said Mirwais Stanikzai, a spokesperson of the interior ministry. Above, Khan smiling in front of a photo of President Ashraf Ghani

The killing of Dawa Khan Menapal was the latest in a series aimed at weakening President Ashraf Ghani's democratically elected government. Above, blood stains seen inside a car after Khan's murder

The killing of Dawa Khan Menapal was the latest in a series aimed at weakening President Ashraf Ghani’s democratically elected government. Above, blood stains seen inside a car after Khan’s murder

Scores of social activists, journalists, bureaucrats, judges and public figures fighting to sustain a liberal Islamic administration have been assassinated by Taliban fighters in a bid to silence voices of dissent in the war-torn country.

Fighting to reimpose strict Islamic law after their 2001 ousting by U.S.-led forces, the Taliban have stepped up their campaign to defeat the U.S.-backed government as foreign forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.

An official in the federal interior ministry said ‘the savage terrorists killed’ Menapal during Friday prayers.

‘He (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,’ said Mirwais Stanikzai, a spokesperson of the interior ministry. 

Many fighting to sustain a liberal Islamic administration have previously been assassinated by Taliban fighters. Above, a bullet hole is seen on the window of vehicle in which Khan was killed

Many fighting to sustain a liberal Islamic administration have previously been assassinated by Taliban fighters. Above, a bullet hole is seen on the window of vehicle in which Khan was killed

An official in the federal interior ministry said 'the savage terrorists killed' Menapal during Friday prayers. Above, Afghan security personnel arrives at the area

An official in the federal interior ministry said ‘the savage terrorists killed’ Menapal during Friday prayers. Above, Afghan security personnel arrives at the area

Elsewhere Taliban fighters intensified clashes with Afghan forces and attacked militias allied with the government, officials said, stretching their dominance of border towns and closing in on two provincial capitals. 

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 Dustom 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. 

The Taliban has recaptured swathes of Afghan countryside and is now vying for control of the provincial capitals of Herat, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah

The Taliban has recaptured swathes of Afghan countryside and is now vying for control of the provincial capitals of Herat, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah

In other parts of the country, Taliban fighters intensified clashes with Afghan forces and attacked militias allied with the government. Above, smoke rising as Taliban attacked parts of the city in Lashkar Gah, on August 6

In other parts of the country, Taliban fighters intensified clashes with Afghan forces and attacked militias allied with the government. Above, smoke rising as Taliban attacked parts of the city in Lashkar Gah, on August 6 

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. Above, Ismail Khan's armed militia after taking back control of parts of Herat city following intense battle with Taliban militants, in Herat, on August 6

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. Above, Ismail Khan’s armed militia after taking back control of parts of Herat city following intense battle with Taliban militants, in Herat, on August 6

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 the city.

‘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.



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