Taliban assassinates senior Afghan media official

Dawa Khan Menapal. Photo: TOLOnews.

Taliban gunmen assassinated Dawa Khan Menapal, the director of the Afghan government’s information and media center, earlier today. The assassins opened fire on a car carrying Menapal on Darul Aman Road in Kabul.

The Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, quickly claimed responsibility for the targeted killing. On Twitter, Mujahid wrote that Menapal had been “punished” for his actions in a “special attack by the mujahidin.”

The assassination of Menapal is the second high-profile attack on Afghan officials in Kabul this week. A Taliban “martyrdom” unit attacked the home of Afghanistan’s acting Defence Minister, Bismillah Mohammadi, in the capital on Aug. 3. Mohammadi survived the attempt on his life, but at least eight people perished and more than 20 others were wounded.

In the aftermath of the attack on Mohammadi’s residence, the Taliban vowed that it would continue to target Afghan officials in Kabul. The group followed through on its pledge with the assassination of Menapal.

Unlike Mohammadi, who was appointed defense minister in June, Menapal was a civilian official in the Afghan government. He did not oversee military operations.

The Taliban has made it clear that such distinctions do not matter. The organization has conducted a campaign of targeted killings on civilian personnel throughout the country.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented a spike in civilian casualties through the first six months of 2021, attributing 39 percent of the killings and injuries to the Taliban — more than any other party in the conflict. UNAMA also found that “targeted killings” were the third leading cause of civilian casualties, reporting that the victims include “human rights defenders, media workers, religious elders, civilian government workers, and humanitarian workers,” as well as ethnic and religious minorities.

UNAMA called on “Anti-Government Elements,” including the Taliban and the Islamic State’s regional branch (ISIS – Khorasan), “to apply a definition of civilian that accords with international law and to immediately cease all targeting of civilians.”

The Taliban has ignored that plea.

Writing for RFE/RL’s Gandhara project, Frud Bezhan and Mustafa Sarwar report that the Taliban “has forcibly shut down dozens of local radio stations, newspapers, and broadcasters in the scores of districts it has captured since the start of the U.S.-led foreign military withdrawal on May 1.” In addition, many journalists have been forced to flee “their homes” or operate “underground,” as the Taliban “has been blamed for killing dozens of reporters and media workers in recent years.”

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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