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US, UN Slam Targeted Killings of Prominent Afghan Civilians

By Ayaz Gul December 23, 2020

Officials in Afghanistan say gunmen Wednesday killed the head of an independent elections watchdog in Kabul, the latest casualty in a string of mostly unclaimed recent attacks against prominent civilians.

The violence has claimed the lives of dozens of people, particularly in the Afghan capital. The victims include civil society activists, journalists, politicians and government officials.

Police said Mohammad Yousuf Rasheed, executive director of the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA), was traveling to his office in the city when unknown assailants sprayed his vehicle with bullets. The attack also left his driver wounded.

Elsewhere in Kabul, officials said a bomb attached to a police vehicle went off, killing an officer in the vehicle and injuring two others.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, condemned Rasheed's assassination and other attacks against "so many outstanding citizens," urging authorities to bring to justice those responsible.

"Targeted killings of civilians are taking place at a deeply disturbing rate in Afghanistan," said a mission statement.

UNAMA noted that in the last four days alone, the conflict-torn country has seen the killing of a lawmaker as well as a well-known journalist and a group of medics.

"Such dreadful attacks are rarely claimed and frequently focus on those working for an open society," it said.

The bomb blast on medics was, however, claimed by the Afghan branch of Islamic State terror group. The attack killed three doctors and two other persons onboard a vehicle that was targeted.

The United States also denounced Rasheed's assassination. "I am appalled by his murder, another in a cacophony of senseless & endless violence. My condolences to all those who knew him," tweeted Ross Wilson, the acting U.S. ambassador in Kabul.

Wilson hailed Rasheed as a dedicated and steadfast advocate for representative democracy in Afghanistan.

"He worked tirelessly for years to ensure free & transparent elections that engaged all Afghans. His death is a loss for his family, friends & nation," the U.S. ambassador said.

Critics fear the wave of targeted killings and increased battlefield hostilities between Afghan security forces and the Taliban insurgency could derail ongoing U.S.-brokered peace negotiations between the two adversaries.

The slow-moving dialogue started September 12 in Qatar and a second phase is expected to resume next month after a three-week break. The recent spike in violence is seen as a threat to the Afghan peace process.

"The U.N. repeats its call for a sustained reduction in violence. Lives and gains must be protected, with spoilers prevented from undermining the vital peace negotiations, due to resume 5 January," UNAMA said in its statement.

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