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Seven killed as Taliban gunmen raid Afghan courthouse

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KABUL: Taliban gunmen stormed a court complex in a city south of Kabul, killing at least seven people in the insurgents’ third so-called “revenge” attack for last month’s execution of Taliban-linked prisoners.

The attack in Pul-i-Alam, capital of volatile Logar province, also left 23 prosecutors wounded as they were meeting to decide the fate of six newly arrested Taliban militants.

The head of the court Mohammad Akram Nejat was among those killed in the attack, which comes as the Taliban step up their annual spring offensive after naming a new leader late last month.

“Three gunmen wearing police uniform entered the court building and started shooting people,” said the provincial governor Mohammad Halim Fedayee.

“Unfortunately seven people were killed including Mohammad Akram Nejat, the newly appointed head of the court.”

Hasib Stanakzai, a member of Logar’s provincial council, confirmed the death toll.

The Taliban said the attack was in retaliation for the execution of six Taliban-linked inmates in early May, part of President Ashraf Ghani’s new hardline policy against the insurgents.

“The martyrdom attack was carried out in revenge for the execution of our mujahideen,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter.

The violence underscores Afghanistan’s fragile security situation as the militants intensify attacks against the Western-backed government.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the attack. In a statement the head of the mission, Nicholas Haysom, urged Afghan authorities “to do everything in their power to ensure adequate protection of judicial officials and other civilians seeking access to judicial institutions.”

“Judicial officials and other civilians can never be considered combatants and thus should not be targeted,” he said.

On June 1 Taliban suicide bombers wearing police uniforms raided a courthouse in the eastern city of Ghazni, killing six people.

And on May 25, 11 people were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing that targeted court employees near Kabul.

The Taliban on the same day announced Haibatullah Akhundzada as their new leader, elevating a low-profile figure in a swift power transition after officially confirming the death of Mullah Mansour in a US drone strike.

The drone attack was the first known American assault on a top Afghan Taliban leader on Pakistani soil.

Observers say Akhundzada, who is seen as more of a spiritual figurehead than a military commander, will emulate Mansour in shunning peace talks and intensifying attacks against the Afghan government.

 

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