A spokesperson for the organization and Afghan officials said that Taliban militants assassinated the top media and information officials of the Afghan government in the capital Kabul.

Friday’s killings occurred days after the Taliban warned that they would target senior government officials in retaliation for increased airstrikes.

Officials from the Federal Ministry of the Interior confirmed that Dawahan Minapar, the head of the government’s media and information center, had been killed.

Interior Ministry spokesperson Mirwes Stanikzai said: “Unfortunately, the barbaric terrorist once again committed a cowardly act and killed a patriotic Afghan.”

Minapar also served as the spokesperson for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Taliban approaching two provincial capitals

Officials said that the Taliban militants have intensified conflict with the Afghan army and targeted militias allied with the government. With the withdrawal of foreign troops, they expanded their dominance over border towns and approached two provincial capitals.

Reuters quoted officials on Friday as saying that at least 10 Afghan soldiers and a commander of armed personnel belonging to the Abdul Rashid Dostum militia in the northern Juzjan province were killed.

Abdul Kader Maria, Deputy Governor of Juzcan Province, said: “The Taliban launched a violent attack on the outskirts of Shebergan (the provincial capital) this week. In the fierce conflict, a pro-government loyal to Dustom The militia commander was killed.”

The Taliban government was overthrown by the U.S.-led army in 2001. With the withdrawal of foreign troops after the 20-year war, the Taliban stepped up their efforts to defeat the Western-backed government.

Another provincial council member stated that 9 out of 10 districts in Jowzjan are now controlled by the Taliban, and the conflict to control Sheberghan is ongoing.

In southern Helmand Province, during the week-long battle to control the capital, Laskar Gah, shops caught fire and damage to civilian property exacerbated the humanitarian crisis.

After an air strike against the Taliban in Rashkar Gah, Afghanistan, a mortar hole was seen in a container [Abdul Khaliq/AP]

Al Jazeera’s James Beth reported in Kabul on Friday that the situation in Lashkar Gah is serious and the government may lose its first provincial capital.

Beth said that fierce fighting took place around the intelligence headquarters of the Lashkar Gah Center and its main prison.

“There is speculation that the Taliban might try to break into the prison so that they can rescue some prisoners we think include Taliban detainees,” he said.

Beth said that the Afghan army claimed to have killed Mubarak, a Taliban commander. According to the government, he was the commander of the organization’s special forces, known as the Red Force.

“The Taliban did not confirm (death),” he said.

UN Security Council discusses Afghanistan

The United Nations said this week that it is deeply concerned about the safety of tens of thousands of people trapped in the city.

Diplomats said on Thursday that the UN Security Council will hold a public meeting on Friday on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

The diplomat added that the discussion will be held at 10:00 am (14:00 GMT) at the request of the Afghan government, Norway and Estonia.

The last time the Security Council held a meeting on Afghanistan was in June, but the situation in this conflict-stricken country has rapidly deteriorated since then.

A senior Western security official said in Kabul: “The violence will only escalate. Because the two sides are caught in fierce ground fighting, it is impossible to assess the destruction of Lashkar Gah… It is even difficult for rescue agencies to find the body.”

On Thursday, during fighting in the area, the Lashkar Gah office of the aid organization Anti-Hunger Operation was hit by a bomb.

“Civilians find themselves between the warring parties. They are being displaced and are often the first victims of conflicts,” said Mike Bonke, the country director of Afghanistan’s Anti-Hunger Action.

“Humanitarian organizations like Operation Anti-Hunger do their best to meet people’s needs, but we need security guarantees from all parties to operate,” he said in a statement.

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