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Taliban assassinates Afghan media chief, takes control of southwest capital

Taliban assassinates Afghan media chief, takes control of southwest capital
Security officials inspect the scene of an attack on Dawa Khan Menapal, the Afghan government's media and information center, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo by Jawed Kargar/EPA-EFE

Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Taliban militants motivated by the withdrawal of U.S. troops seized control of Nimruz province in Afghanistan on Friday and assassinated the government's top media official, authorities said.

Officials said insurgents captured Naranj, the capital of Nimruz province, which is located in southwest Afghanistan. It's the first provincial capital to fall under Taliban control since U.S. forces began leaving the country.

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The fighting was punctuated by a prison break in the region aimed at increasing Taliban ranks and demoralizing security forces loyal to the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

Provincial Deputy Gov. Rohullah Gul Khairzad confirmed the city had "fallen" to Taliban control.

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The militant victory came on the same day Taliban fighters assassinated Dawa Khan Menapal, chief of the government's media and information center. He was killed in Kabul, officials said.

Witnesses said Menapal was traveling in a vehicle after leaving a mosque when he was attacked by gunmen.

Menapal was formerly a deputy spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani between 2016 and 2020 before he took over as media and information chief.

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U.S. forces have continued to support the Afghan government with airstrikes, but they have not stopped the Taliban's advance. The Pentagon has said the withdrawal from Afghanistan is more than 90% complete.

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Friday's attack was the second assassination attempt against a government official this week. A car bomb targeted the acting Afghan defense minister at his Kabul home on Tuesday. The defense minister was not home, and was not injured.

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