KABUL, Afghanistan

A senior Afghan official and former spokesman of the president was assassinated by the Taliban in the capital Kabul on Friday, authorities confirmed.

The killing of Dawa Khan Menapal, who was the head of the Government Media Information Center (GMIC), took place on the Darul Aman road at around noon, with the Taliban taking responsibility, Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said.

Menapal hailed from the restive southern province of Kandahar, and only a day earlier accused the Taliban of war crimes, sharing an audio clip of a Taliban leader directing insurgents in that province to shoot and hang pro-government figures indiscriminately.

The Taliban on Wednesday took responsibility for a deadly car bombing aimed at the Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi in the capital Kabul. The minister survived, but eight people were killed and 20 others injured.

That was the first major assault claimed by the group in clear violation of the Doha Agreement with the US that prohibited such attacks in major cities.

“The Islamic Emirate (Taliban) will no longer remain indifferent to the ‘crimes of the occupier and the domestic enemy’ and will stand against it with all its might,” warned the insurgents

5 killed as grenade hits passenger bus

Earlier on Friday, five people were killed after a rocket-propelled grenade hit a passenger bus in Afghanistan’s restive central Maidan Wardak province, local sources told Anadolu Agency.

The provincial administration blamed the Taliban for the incident. However, the insurgents rejected the charge and instead blamed the security forces for the attack.

In the south, Afghan forces launched a major ground and air offensive against advancing Taliban insurgents in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand province.

Gen. Sami Sadat, a young commander of Afghan National Army’s 215 Maiwand Corps, is heading the offensive with the backing of the US air raids, sources told Anadolu Agency.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed claimed in a series of tweets that no harm had been done to their fighters, but scores of shops and markets were destroyed.

“American ‘invaders’ & their internal ‘hirelings’ have begun a deliberate campaign of war crimes in #Helmand. These markets, stalls and shops of innocent civilians in Lashkargah were bombed last night, causing immense material losses to residents,” tweeted the Taliban spokesman, with visuals from the area.

The new wave of deadly clashes erupted last week when, after overrunning nearly 200 rural districts, the Taliban began assaults on major cities as they marched on Herat city near the Iranian border, causing panic and anxiety in this third biggest city of an estimated half-a-million inhabitants.

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