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The Taliban took over a provincial capital in Afghanistan and also assassinated a top government media officer on Friday, reported Reuters.

Zarani, the capital of the southern Nimroz province, was lost to the Taliban reportedly over a lack of adequate military backing by government forces.

A large number of districts and border crossings have been captured by Taliban insurgents this year, as American and foreign troops complete a withdrawal. Provincial capitals have been some of the hardest hit in the changeover.

Zarani was the first provincial capital to be captured by the Taliban since a February 2020 deal reached between the United States and the Islamist group announcing the US military withdrawal from the country.

A source told Reuters that the Taliban had overtaken the governor’s office, the police building and an area near the border with Iran.

Meanwhile, in Kabul the Taliban killed government spokesman Dawa Khan Menapal. The murder of Menapal, who was the head of the Government Media and Information Centre, is seen as a major blow to the government of Afghani President Ashraf Ghani.

American Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson tweeted that he was “saddened and disgusted” by Menapal’s death, whom he called a “friend and colleague, whose career was focused on providing truthful information to all Afghans about Afghanistan.”

“These murders are an affront to Afghans’ human rights [and] freedom of speech,” he said.

Earlier he tweeted, “The Taliban’s violence and hate have never been sustainable forms of governance. The group's previous beheadings as well as current offensive [and] targeted killings show that they only know violence and are scared of peace. We urge them to choose peace.”

A federal interior ministry official said that Menapal was killed during Friday prayers.

Insurgents have intensified efforts recently to expand their power in the country in the shadow of a full US military withdrawal in the coming months.

On Tuesday, at least six people were killed and 10 wounded in a powerful car bombing apparently targeting Afghanistan's defense minister.

According to a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, the blast took place in an upscale neighborhood, part of a security zone of Kabul and home to a number of senior government officials.