Gunmen assassinate two Afghan women judges in Kabul ambush

Kabul: Gunmen shot dead two Afghan women judges working for the Supreme Court during an early morning ambush in the country’s capital Sunday, officials said, as a wave of assassinations continues to rattle the nation.

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Violence has surged across Afghanistan in recent months despite ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and government – especially in Kabul, where a new trend of targeted killings aimed at high-profile figures has sown fear in the restive city.

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The latest attack comes just two days after the Pentagon announced it had cut troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500, the fewest in nearly two decades.

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The attack on the judges happened as they were driving to their office in a court vehicle, said Ahmad Fahim Qaweem, a spokesman for the Supreme Court.

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“Unfortunately, we have lost two women judges in today’s attack. Their driver is wounded,” Qaweem told AFP.

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There are more than 200 female judges working for the country’s top court, the spokesman added.

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Kabul police confirmed the attack.

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Afghanistan’s Supreme Court was a target in February 2017 when a suicide bomb ripped through a crowd of court employees, killing at least 20 and wounding 41.

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In recent months, several prominent Afghans – including politicians, journalists, activists, doctors and prosecutors – have been assassinated in often brazen daytime attacks in Kabul and other cities.

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Afghan officials have blamed the Taliban for the attacks, a charge the insurgent group has denied.

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Some of these killings have been claimed by the rival jihadist Islamic State group.

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Earlier this month the US military for the first time directly accused the Taliban of orchestrating the attacks.

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“The Taliban’s campaign of unclaimed attacks and targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders & journalists must… cease for peace to succeed,” Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, said on Twitter.

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The targeted killings have surged despite the Taliban and Afghan government engaging in peace talks in the Qatari capital of Doha.

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The Taliban carried out more than 18,000 attacks in 2020, Afghanistan’s spy chief Ahmad Zia Siraj told lawmakers earlier this month.

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On Friday, the Pentagon announced it had cut troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500 as part of its deal with the Taliban to withdraw all troops from the country by May 2021.

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That deal was struck in return for security guarantees from the insurgents and a commitment to peace talks with the Afghan government.

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