Three female media workers have been shot and killed in Afghanistan, their TV network said, in what appeared to be the latest targeted killing to rock the country.
Journalists, religious scholars, activists and judges have all been victims of a recent wave of political assassinations, forcing many into hiding — with some fleeing the country. The killings have increased since peace talks began last year between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Tuesday’s murders came in two separate attacks in the eastern city of Jalalabad, said Zalmai Latifi, the director of Enikass TV, where the three women worked.
“They were going home from the office on foot when they were shot,” Latifi told AFP, saying all three worked in the dubbing department for the broadcaster.
Read more: Two Afghan women judges killed by gunmen
Zahir Adel, a spokesman at Nangarhar’s provincial hospital, also confirmed the toll.
The local Islamic State group affiliate said its gunmen carried out the killing of what it called “journalists working for one of the media stations loyal to the apostate Afghan government”.
Afghan and US officials have blamed the Taliban for the wave of violence, but the group has denied the charges.
A Taliban spokesman denied the group was involved in Tuesday’s killings.
The murders came as the US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad returned to Kabul this week for meetings with Afghan leaders, in a bid to revive a flagging peace process as a deadline for US troop withdrawal draws closer.
Khalilzad’s arrival marks the first time he has returned to Afghanistan since US President Joe Biden took office in January and asked him to stay in his post.
Donald Trump’s administration, eager to end America’s longest war, tasked the veteran diplomat with negotiating with the Taliban, culminating in a deal signed in Qatar on February 29 last year.
The accord states that the US will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by May, with the Taliban promising not to allow territory to be used by terrorists — the original goal of the US invasion following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
America’s future in Afghanistan under Biden is unclear, after the White House announced plans to review the withdrawal deal brokered last year.
Some observers warn a speedy US withdrawal from the country may unleash even greater chaos in the war-weary country.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk