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Local Official Shot Dead, Journalist Wounded, Troops Killed In Afghanistan Attacks

In Helmand Province, an Afghan journalist was wounded on March 12 when a bomb attached to his car exploded.
In Helmand Province, an Afghan journalist was wounded on March 12 when a bomb attached to his car exploded.

A local Afghan official was gunned down outside his home in the western province of Farah, while a local journalist was seriously wounded in a bombing in the country’s south, officials say.

Also in Farah Province, Afghan troops reportedly suffered casualties as the Taliban stormed an army checkpoint.

The attacks took place on March 12-13 as Taliban and U.S. negotiators concluded another round of talks in Qatar aimed at ending the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan -- with both sides reporting progress in the negotiations.

Officials in Farah Province said that Mohammad Salim Farahi, the acting head of the public works department, was shot and killed on March 13 by unknown men near his home in the provincial capital, also named Farah.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the killing.

On March 12, Taliban fighters stormed an army checkpoint in the same province, killing 10 soldiers, according to provincial council member Abdul Samad Salehi.

Salehi said that the area was retaken after reinforcements were sent, but added that up to six soldiers remained missing.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that the militant group was behind the assault.

In the southern province of Helmand, an Afghan journalist was wounded on March 12 when a bomb attached to his car exploded as he was heading to work in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Nisar Ahmad Ahmadi, a journalist covering politics and security issues with Sabawoon TV, had a leg wound and was transferred to Kabul for further treatment, said Omar Zwak, the provincial governor's spokesman.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, which the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called an “attempted assassination” against Ahmadi and “another reminder of the dangers journalists face every day in Afghanistan.”

Ilias Alami with the Afghan Journalist Safety Committee said that Ahmadi had previously faced death threats from the Taliban.

Afghanistan was the most deadly country for journalists worldwide last year, with at least 13 of them killed in relation to their work, according to the New York- based CPJ.

Despite intensified peace talks between the United States and the Taliban, the militant group has continued to carrying out attacks across Afghanistan.

U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the nearly two weeks of talks in Qatar that ended on March 12 had made "real strides" but without an agreement on a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The U.S. State Department said negotiators made "meaningful progress" during the talks in Doha. A spokesman said the Taliban agreed that peace will require agreement on counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, and a cease-fire.

A Taliban spokesman said that "progress was achieved regarding both these issues," referring to the U.S. troop withdrawal and assurances that foreign militants would not use Afghanistan's territory to stage future terrorist attacks.

Neither side mentioned any progress made on reversing the Taliban's refusal to negotiate with the government in Kabul. The militant group says the Western-backed government is a U.S. "puppet" which must be toppled.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan
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