Two Afghan Supreme Court women judges shot dead in Kabul

US envoy blames Taliban for the assassinations

By: News Desk      Published: 10:32 AM, 17 Jan, 2021
Two Afghan Supreme Court women judges shot dead in Kabul

Gunmen shot dead two Afghan women judges working for the Supreme Court in the country's capital early Sunday, officials said, as a wave of assassinations continued to rattle the nation.

Police said they were killed in the centre of Kabul while on their way to work. "They were judges working for the Supreme Court," said Jamshid Rasuli, spokesman for the attorney general's office.

The attack on the judges happened as they were travelling to their office in a court vehicle, Ahmad Fahim Qaweem, a spokesman for the court told AFP. "Unfortunately, we have lost two women judges in today's attack. Their driver is wounded," Qaweem said. "The vehicle was transporting the women judges to their office."

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

Kabul police confirmed the attack. "They were judges working for the Supreme Court," said Jamshid Rasuli, spokesman for the attorney general's office.

According to Afghan news agency Pajhwok, the unidentified gunmen shot dead two female judges and injured a third during an early morning ambush in the country's capital, police said.

Police spokesman Firdos Faramarz said the incident took place in the Qala-i-Fatullah area of the 10th police district at around 8:30am local time.

The latest attack, which US Charge D'Affaires Ross Wilson blamed on the Taliban, comes just two days after the Pentagon announced it had cut troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500, the fewest in nearly two decades.

The latest attack drew widespread condemnation, with Wilson blaming the Taliban directly as he called for an investigation. "The Taliban should understand that such actions for which it bears responsibility outrage the world and must cease if peace is to come to Afghanistan," wrote Wilson on Twitter.

Following the attacks the American embassy in Kabul updated its travel advisory, saying "US citizens already in Afghanistan should consider departing".

President Ashraf Ghani also accused the Taliban of launching an "illegitimate war and hostility".

"The government once again reiterates its call on the Taliban that violence, terror, brutality and crimes... will only prolong the war in the country," he said in a statement issued by the presidential palace.

The top British envoy to Kabul, Alison Blake, condemned the "appalling targeted attack" on the judges as she called for an investigation.

The head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission also condemned the murders, calling the ongoing killings a "systematic massacre".

"Afghanistan is losing one of its most important gains, its educated & professional cadre, in what seems to be a systematic massacre & the world seems to be just watching. This must stop," tweeted Shaharzad Akbar.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting.

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.

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. 

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

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

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

"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.

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

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

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.

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

Violence has surged across Afghanistan in recent months, especially in Kabul where a new trend of targeted killings of high-profile figures have sown fear and chaos in the restive city.

The latest attack comes just two days after the Pentagon announced it had cut troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500, their lowest numbers during the nearly two decades of war.

Radio Station ‘Attacked’ in Kunduz 

An angry mob joined by the imam of a mosque attacked Zohra Radio, a local radio station in the city of Kunduz, leaving damage to its equipment and building, head of the radio station, Mohsen Ahmadi, said, reported TOLOnews. 

He said the mob entered the station and broke its equipment. The mob, who just returned from the Friday prayers also flocked towards two other radio stations in the city, Radio Kaihan and Radio Chiragh, but they were prevented by security forces, local sources said.

The motive behind the attack has been said to be the airing of music by the radio station during Friday prayers, but Ahmadi rejected this claim.

The incident comes after a string of targeted attacks against Afghan journalists in various parts of the country.

Radio Zohra's broadcasting and program remained halted for several hours after the attack, Ahmadi said.

Afghan Journalists’ Safety Committee (AJSC) in a tweet condemned the attack on Zohra radio station in Kunduz.