KABUL: The militant Islamic State (IS) group has claimed responsibility for the killing of three women working for a local radio and TV station in eastern Afgha­nistan, the latest episode in a spike in targeted killings across the war-torn country.

Dozens of people gathered on Wednesday for the funerals of the three media workers.

The women were gunned down on Tuesday in separate attacks, according to the news editor of the privately owned station and officials in Nangarhar province.

Afghan officials said police arrested the alleged killer of the three women, identifying him as Qari Baser and insisting he was a Talib, a claim promptly denied by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Nangarhar police chief, Gen Juma Gul Hemat, said Baser had used a pistol with a silencer in the attacks. He was arrested shortly after the attacks by police in Jalalabad, the provincial capital.

The IS claim, posted late on Tuesday, contradicted the Afghan government’s accusations against the Taliban.

The militants said the three female journalists were targeted because they worked for one of the media stations loyal to the apostate Afghan government in Jalalabad.

It was not the first attack against women working at the Enikass Radio and TV. In December, IS claimed the killing of another female employee there, Malala Maiwand.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned Tuesday’s attacks, saying that assaults on innocent compatriots, especially women, were contrary to the teachings of Islam, Afghan culture and the spirit of peace.

At the funeral of 23-year-old Mursal Wahidi, one of the three victims, her father said he had implored her to quit her job after Maiwand’s killing in December. But his daughter refused, fiercely loving her work.

“Journalism was her life’s dream, she studied and was living her dream,” Wahidullah Khogyani said. He said he did not think that she had received any threats because of her job “but if she did, she was hiding it”.

Afghanistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for media workers. Tuesday’s killings brought to 15 the number of media workers killed in Afghanistan in the last six months.

The slayings of the women are part of a larger spike in targeted killings in Afghanistan in the past year, coinciding with the signing of a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban in February 2020.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2021

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