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Two Afghan Female Supreme Court Judges Killed In Kabul

Targeted killings have increased recently in Afghanistan.

Afghan officials say gunmen killed two female Supreme Court judges in the capital Kabul, the latest in a string of targeted killings that have swept the country.

Many of those being targeted are civilians -- journalists, rights activists, cultural figures, moderate religious leaders, and women in public roles.

Ahmad Fahim Qaweem, a spokesman for the Supreme Court, said the two women were driving to their office when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle during morning rush hour on January 17. The women's driver was wounded in the attack.

The women have not been identified.

Kabul police confirmed the attack and said it had launched an investigation.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

U.S. and Afghan officials have blamed the Taliban for the wave of assassinations across major cities in Afghanistan, where violence has soared despite peace efforts to end the 19-year war.

Rights groups say the killings are intended to silence and intimidate independent voices and civil society in Afghanistan, which has made inroads on women’s rights and free speech since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the fundamentalist Taliban regime.

The Taliban has denied involvement in the killings.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a January 17 statement that "terror, horror, and crime" were not a solution to the country’s problems and urged the Taliban to accept "a permanent cease-fire."

The violence comes as representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban hold peace talks in Qatar aimed at ending hostilities and reaching a political settlement.

The talks have been painstakingly slow, bogged down for months by disagreements over minor issues.

The Taliban has intensified attacks against the Afghan government, seeking to gain leverage in peace talks through gains on the battlefield.

On January 15, the United States announced it has reduced troops levels in Afghanistan to 2,500, which is the lowest number in nearly two decades.

Under a U.S.-Taliban deal reached last February, all foreign forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for security guarantees from the militant group, including severing ties with Al-Qaeda.

With reporting by AFP and AP
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