'The educated are being killed': Kabul killing highlights Taliban's campaign of terror

Despite high-profile peace talks, the Taliban are ruthlessly targeting critics and politicians

The deputy governor of Kabul was killed when a sticky bomb attached to his armoured vehicle detonated in the centre of the Afghan capital on Tuesday.

Mahboobullah Mohebi and his assistant died in the blast, which happened in the PD9 area of the city.

Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed the attack, calling the killing "a war crime" and an inhumane act.

"Two of his bodyguards were also injured," Mr Arian told The National.

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The insurgents don't want the youth to evolve

In another attack in Kabul, gunmen shot and killed a police officer and wounded another policeman, said Ferdaws Faramarz, spokesman for Kabul’s police chief. An investigation was under way, he said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the Kabul attacks. ISIS has claimed responsibility for several attacks in the capital in recent months, including horrific attacks on educational institutions that killed as many as 50 people, most of them students.

The Taliban has waged bitter battles against ISIS fighters, particularly in ISIS strongholds in eastern Afghanistan, while continuing their insurgency against Afghan government forces.

Violence in Afghanistan surged in recent months even as the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators are meeting in Qatar to try to hammer out a peace deal that could put an end to decades of war.

A new campaign of terror

The attack is the latest in a string of assassinations across the country, aimed at Afghan government officials, activists, journalists and intellectuals. Also on Tuesday, the deputy head of Ghor provincial council, Abdul Rahman Atshan, was killed and another provincial council member injured in a sticky bomb explosion, local officials confirmed.

On Thursday, Malala Maiwand an Afghan journalist from the southern city Jalalabad, was killed with her driver when gunmen fired on her vehicle.

An Afghan intellectual

Mohibe was regarded by many as the citizens’ official, approachable and accessible to all.

"He was among the few governors appointed to his position who was directly involved with the masses. He was a community mobiliser and an Afghan intellectual," said Mohammad Azizi, former chief economist with the Afghan government. Mohebi had also briefly served as the acting governor of Kabul in 2014, and worked with the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission.

Mohebi was appointed deputy governor in March 2015.

"He brought changes in the office of the governor in terms of effectiveness and transparency, making the civil servant accountable towards people," Mr Azizi told The National, mourning the loss of his colleague.

While no group has yet claimed the most recent attacks, the Taliban insurgency has been known to target progressive voices that are critical of them.

Afghan national army soldiers arrive at the site of a suicide bombing in Ghazni province west of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Over 30 people were killed on Sunday in two separate suicide bombings in Afghanistan that targeted a military base and a provincial chief, officials said. (AP Photo/Rahmatullah Nikzad)

Despite the US-Taliban agreement this year, there has been a significant rise in the overall level of violence in the country, particularly in terms of assassinations.

In a report released earlier in the year, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said 533 Afghan civilians had been killed and 412 others wounded in targeted attacks in the first six months alone.

The ongoing political negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with the next phase expected to begin on January 5, has failed to curb the violence.

"The enemy's message is very clear from these targets – to instil fear, to shut us down, to make us surrender to terror," said Orzala Nemat, an Afghan academic and director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit.

“It is shameful for the enemy to target our young generation of men and women who are directing their energies to build a better Afghanistan."

Iqbal Afzali, a social activist, spoke to Mohebi recently and was deeply upset at the violence against Afghan intellectuals.

"The insurgents don't want the youth to evolve. They want to kill our scholars, intellectuals and hardworking people. They don't want the whole society to progress," he told The National.

Regional meddling 

Blaming neighbouring states for playing the role of spoilers in the process for a peaceful and successful Afghanistan, Mr Afzali urged the Afghan government to take action to protect the public.

“These are groups that don’t want peace to be achieved in Afghanistan, and that includes Taliban and our neighbours who have considerable influence in the matters of our country,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s government, elements of which have been known to support the Taliban insurgency.

"The Islamic state of Daesh or if it is the extremist group of Taliban, they have to realise one thing that this country needs is the educated and qualified people for its developments and future," Mr Azizi said. "It is a crime [against] humanity that the Afghan intellectuals, the enlightened, the educated are being killed or being forced to leave and become refugees," he said.

epa08850946 Afghan National Army soldiers stand in attention during their graduation ceremony at the military academy in Kabul, Afghanistan, 29 November 2020. At least 1279 Afghan soldiers including 200 female soldiers were graduated after three months of training.  EPA/HEDAYATULLAH AMID

Echoing popular sentiment among Afghans who are emotionally tired of the increasing violence, Ms Nemat wondered how many more Afghan lives needed to be sacrificed for things to change.

"We are tired of hearing the frequent condemnation messages. We need to pass a declaration, forbidding people from just condemning this and offering solutions as to what can be done to stop this injustice.”

She said Afghans will not agree to surrender to fear and terror.

“It is better if the enemies find other ways to communicate their messages rather than using violence."

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