Three female employees of an Afghan television channel have been killed in two separate attacks in the eastern Nangarhar region.
Local officials told RFE/RL that two employees of Enikass TV were killed in a shooting in the Zargaran area of the provincial capital, Jalalabad, on March 2. A civilian woman was also wounded in that attack.
A third media worker was killed in a nearly simultaneous shooting in the Qasbeh area of Jalalabad.
"They were going home from the office on foot when they were shot," said Zalmai Latifi, the director of the TV network.
Latifi said the three women were recent high-school graduates aged between 18 and 20 and worked in the station's dubbing department.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, which follows the killing in Jalalabad in December of Enikass TV presenter Malala Maiwand and her driver.
The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for that attack.
Provincial police chief Juma Gul Hemat said one of the suspected gunmen had been arrested and that he was connected to the Taliban.
A Taliban spokesman denied the group was responsible for the attack.
There has been a rising wave of killings targeting journalists, civil society activists, and officials across Afghanistan in recent months amid ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban negotiators in Qatar.
Most of the targeted killings have gone unclaimed. The Taliban has denied involvement in many cases. But Afghan and U.S. officials have blamed the militants.
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 2001 U.S.-led invasion that toppled the fundamentalist Taliban regime.
"The targeted killing of journalists could cause a state of fear in the journalistic community, and this could lead to self-censorship, abandonment of media activities, and even leaving the country," said Mujib Khalwatgar, head of Afghan media advocacy group NAI.
The UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan said in a report released February 15 that at least 11 media workers and human rights activists were killed in targeted attacks in Afghanistan since the launch of peace talks in September 2020.
"These attacks are meant to intimidate; they are intended to make reporters cower; the culprits hope to stifle freedom of speech in a nation where the media has flourished during the past 20 years. This cannot be tolerated," the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement on Twitter.