An Afghan journalist was shot dead in a car ambush in the central province of Ghor, the fifth media professional to be killed in the country in two months, officials said on Saturday.
Bismellah Adel Aimaq, 28, the editor-in-chief of Sada-e-Ghor – Voice of Ghor – radio station, was killed near Firoz Koh city, the provincial capital, on Friday evening.
“Unfortunately, Bismellah Adel Aimaq, the head of Sada-e Ghor Radio, was killed by unknown gunmen this evening in Firoz Koh.
"He was 28 years old, and started working with Sada-e-Ghor Radio since 2015,” said Habibollah Radmanesh, the deputy governor of Ghor.
No militant group has claimed responsibility for the killing.
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee said Aimaq had previously survived two assassination attempts. In November, attackers opened fire and threw a grenade at his house after a previous attempt in October 2019 failed when gunmen shot at his vehicle in Firoz Koh, it said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the killing and said his government was committed to supporting and promoting freedom of expression.
"The Taliban and other terrorist groups could not silence the legitimate voices of journalists and the media by carrying out such attacks," he said in a tweet.
A civil society activist was also killed on Friday by unknown militants.
Killings of journalists, government officials and rights activists, have increased rapidly in recent months as violence surges in Afghanistan despite peace talks between the government and Taliban insurgents.
Aimaq's murder comes weeks after the December 12 killing of Rahmatullah Nekzad, a prominent journalist who was shot dead with a silenced pistol near his home in the restive eastern city of Ghazni.
Two Taliban inmates who were freed ahead of peace talks have been arrested in connection with Nekzad's murder, Afghanistan's spy agency the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said late on Thursday.
About 5,000 Taliban inmates were released last year as part of a contentious prisoner swap ahead of the long-delayed peace talks that finally commenced on September 12.
The NDS said that after their release the two Taliban inmates joined a "terrorist group" in Ghazni which has carried out several assassinations.
The two, who have confessed to their crimes, had also assassinated a judge and two government employees, the agency said.
The Taliban has denied involvement in the killing of media professionals.
The Afghan branch of ISIS, blamed for a series of attacks on a range of targets 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.
In November, two journalists were killed in separate bombings.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the relentless attacks on journalists in Afghanistan. The international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has called the country one of the world’s deadliest for journalists.
Earlier this week, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said the targeted killings of Afghan journalists had affected reporting in the country and led to self-censorship in the media community. It said a number of women journalists had left their jobs in the provinces because of ongoing threats.
The commission said that the majority of journalists were unable to go out in some provinces openly and that the government had not paid attention when they reported the threats they were facing.