Attack targets Afghan reporter’s family, kills 3

KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb 26 (AP) — Three family members of an assassinated journalist in western Afghanistan have been killed by gunmen, local officials said Friday, amid a rising wave of attacks targeting journalists and civil society actors.

Ghor provincial council member Hamidullah Mutahid said that at least five others were wounded in the attack late Thursday.

The gunmen stormed the family home of Afghan journalist and activist Bismillah Adil Aimaq, who was shot dead in an unclaimed attack nearby Ghor on Jan. 1.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack Aimaq’s family. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid quickly rejected the involvement of the militant group in the gun assault.

The Islamic State group, blamed for a series of attacks on a range of targets in Afghanistan in recent months, claimed it had killed another Afghan journalist earlier in December. Two assailants opened fire and killed TV anchorwoman Malala Maiwand as she left her house in eastern Nangarhar province. Her driver was also killed.

The deadly campaign against journalists and civil society activists comes as the Afghan government and Taliban representatives are struggling to hash out a peace deal in Doha. The majority of the attacks remain unclaimed and have pushed Afghan journalists toward self-censorship, immigration, or quitting their jobs.

Earlier this week unknown gunmen shot and killed Khalil Narmgo, former head of a journalists association in the northern Baghlan province.

A United Nations report released last week says that at least 11 human rights defenders and media workers were killed in targeted attacks in Afghanistan between September and the end of January 2021.

An official in the Afghanistan Interior Ministry, speaking on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the five wounded in Thursday’s attack in Ghor were all children.

Ghor provincial governor Noor Ahmad Kohnaward, while not providing any details to back up his claim, blamed the Taliban for the gun attack.

The Afghan media advocacy organization Nai said in a statement Friday that the government should investigate the wave of attacks on journalists.