US military blames Taleban for spate of Afghan assassinations

KABUL (CNA) – The United States (US) military yesterday blamed the Taleban for a spate of assassinations of prominent Afghans, the first time Washington has directly accused the insurgent group of the killings.

The charge comes as the Afghan government and Taleban are due today to resume peace talks in Qatar, as both sides seek an end to the long-running conflict.

“The Taleban’s campaign of unclaimed attacks and targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders & journalists must… cease for peace to succeed,” Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, said on Twitter.

The deputy governor of Kabul province, five journalists, and a prominent election activist have been among those assassinated since November. Afghan officials blame the Taleban for the killings, but the hardline group has denied the charge, while the rival Islamic State militant group says its fighters were responsible for some of them.

Leggett’s statement comes as the Taleban accused US forces of carrying out air strikes against insurgents in Kandahar, Nangarhar and Helmand provinces in recent days.

The aftermath of an attack in Kabul. The US military has blamed the Taleban for a spate of targetted killings. PHOTO: CNA

The Taleban said the strikes violated an agreement signed in February that paved the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 2021.

Leggett said the US would continue to defend Afghan forces against Taleban attacks.

Violence has surged across Afghanistan, with the Taleban and government forces fighting daily across swathes of rural areas.

The Taleban carried out more than 18,000 attacks in 2020, Afghanistan’s spy chief Ahmad Zia Siraj told lawmakers yesterday.