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ISIS gunman shoots dead three female Afghan TV and radio workers in targeted attacks

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killing of three women working for a local radio and TV station in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday.

The attacks in Jalalabad are the latest in a spike of targeted killings that have seen judges, journalists and other professionals ambushed by gunmen or killed by car bombs.  

The killings have escalated since peace talks began last year between the Afghan government and the Taliban, sparking fears that the insurgents are eliminating perceived opponents.

The three women - Mursal Wahidi, Sadia Sadat and a woman named only as Shahnaz - were aged between 18 and 20. They were shot and killed in two separate attacks after they left the Enikass TV station where they worked on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, dozens of people gathered to mourn at the women's funerals. 

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killing of three women working for a local radio and TV station in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday. Pictured: Mourners attend the funeral of one of the women on Wednesday

The three women - Mursal Wahidi, Sadia Sadat and a woman named only as Shahnaz - were aged between 18 and 20. They were shot and killed in two separate attacks after they left the Enikass TV station where they worked on Tuesday. Pictured: Mourners at the funeral of one of the women on Wednesday

Afghan officials said police had arrested the killer and identified him as Qari Baser, insisting he was a member of the Taliban. The claim was promptly denied by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.        

Nangarhar police chief, General Juma Gul Hemat, said Baser had used a pistol with a silencer in the attacks and was arrested shortly afterwards.

The ISIS claim, posted late on Tuesday, contradicted the Afghan government's accusations against the Taliban. 

ISIS said the women were targeted because they worked for one of the 'media stations loyal to the apostate Afghan government'.

Targeted killings have escalated since peace talks began last year between the Afghan government and the Taliban, sparking fears that the insurgents are eliminating perceived opponents. Pictured: Relatives transport the coffin of Sadia Sadat, one of the women killed in Tuesday's attacks

The attacks in Jalalabad are the latest in a spike of targeted killings that have seen judges, journalists and other professionals ambushed by gunmen or killed by car bombs. Pictured: The funeral of Sadia Sadat, one of the women killed in Tuesday's attacks

It was not the first attack on women working at Enikass Radio and TV. In December, ISIS claimed the killing of another female employee there, Malala Maiwand.

Friends and family gathered in Jalalabad on Wednesday to bury their loved ones as they pleaded for an end to the killings.

Mohammad Nazif said his cousin Sadia Sadat was just 18 years old, and that she had been working at the TV station over the past year to help support her family.

'Her family was very happy for her to work in TV. She had not received any warnings,' Nazif told AFP news agency.

'I don't know why the militants target such innocent girls. I ask them to stop the targeted killing of media workers.'

A colleague at Enikass TV who spoke on condition of anonymity said the station was reeling from the murders, describing the three victims as being like 'family'.

'Three innocent girls were shot dead in the daylight in the middle of the city. Nobody is safe anymore,' said the colleague.  

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned Tuesday's attacks, saying that assaults on 'innocent compatriots, especially women, are contrary to the teachings of Islam, Afghan culture and the spirit of peace.'

ISIS said the women were targeted because they worked for one of the 'media stations loyal to the apostate Afghan government'. Pictured: The father of Sadia Sadat waits outside a mortuary to receive her body

The Afghan police blame the Taliban for the killings and have arrested a man they claim is a member of the group. This was denied by the Taliban's spokesman. Pictured: Hospital staff check the bodies of the women killed in Tuesday's attacks before releasing them to their families

Shokrullah Pasoon of Enikass Radio and TV in Jalalabad - the station the women worked for - said one of them, Mursal Wahidi, was walking home when gunmen opened fire, according to eyewitnesses. 

The other two were shot and killed in a separate incident, also walking home from work. Two other people, apparently passersby, were reportedly wounded in the shooting attacks.

The three women dubbed popular and often emotion-laden dramas from Turkey and India into Afghanistan's local languages of Dari and Pashtu, added Pasoon, the station's news editor said.

Enikass Radio and TV is a privately owned outlet that broadcasts 'news, various political, social, Islamic, educational, satirical, and engaging programs and standard dubbing of serials and movies for the people of Afghanistan,' according to its website. 

Afghanistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for media workers. Tuesday's killings brought to 15 the number of media workers killed in Afghanistan in the last six months. 

Afghanistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for media workers. Tuesday's killings brought to 15 the number of media workers killed in Afghanistan in the last six months. Pictured: Mourners carry the coffin of one of the women killed in Tuesday's attacks

The slayings of the women are part of a larger spike in targeted killings in the country in the past year, coinciding with the signing of a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban in February 2020. 

The Taliban have denied involvement in most of the targeted killings. Both the group and the government blame the other for staging the attacks to discredit the peace deal or leverage greater concessions.

US officials also blame the Taliban for the wave of violence, while the Kabul government said the insurgents routinely hide behind IS claims to cover their tracks, a charge denied by the Taliban. 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (pictured) condemned Tuesday's attacks, saying that assaults on 'innocent compatriots, especially women, are contrary to the teachings of Islam, Afghan culture and the spirit of peace.' [File photo]

The Biden administration is reviewing the peace deal which calls for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops by May 1. Officials say no decision has been made. 

The surge in violence has prompted concerns that the Taliban, who ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996-2001, could return to power following the potential US withdrawal.

Democracy is fragile in Afghanistan, where the government is held together by a tentative power-sharing deal following a contested presidential election in 2019.

The devastation of a 20-year conflict has taken a toll on the country's infrastructure and economy and half of its territory is either in Taliban hands or being contested by the group. 

Attacks on Afghan security forces have decimated defences and made it even more difficult for the state to combat the constant threat of insurgency and keep civilians safe.

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