Kabul, Dec 31 (efe-epa).- Two of the 5,000 Taliban fighters who were released earlier this year after an agreement with the United States – as a precondition for intra-Afghan peace negotiations – were behind the recent assassination of Afghan journalist Rahmatullah Nikzad, Afghanistan’s principal intelligence agency claimed on Thursday.
The alleged perpetrators of the killing – identified as Taliban insurgents Hamidullah and Zikrullah – have been arrested by the special forces of the National Directorate of Security, the agency said in a statement.
Nikzad was shot dead by unknown gunmen on Dec. 21 in the central Ghazni province, where he had been working for several years as a freelance journalist for various international media outlets.
Around 5,000 Taliban prisoners were released in accordance with the agreement signed between the rebel group and the US in February 2020, in exchange for the insurgents freeing 1,000 Afghan personnel before kicking off bilateral peace negotiations with Kabul.
The NDS alleged that after being freed, the two militants joined the “Taliban terror group of Qari Obaid, in-charge of the target killings in Ghazni city.”
Besides the killing of Nikzad, the two former inmates have also been linked to the assassination of a judge and two employees of the provincial government.
“The detained persons have confessed to their crimes and said that besides target killings they took part in several (land)mine plantings and other terrorist activities as well,” NDS said.
The killing of the renowned journalist is part of a recent wave of almost daily target killings of politicians, activists, journalists and intellectuals in Afghan cities.
The number of such assassinations, often carried out by shooting or sticky bombs attached to vehicles, have shot up since the Taliban-US deal.
Although the Taliban have denied taking part in these attacks, especially the killing of Nikzad, the government maintains that the insurgents have adopted the killings as a new war tactic after agreeing to reduce large-scale attacks in cities in the agreement with Washington. EFE-EPA