KABUL -- Police in Kabul have seized a stash of "pen guns" they say criminals and insurgents are using in a wave of targeted assassinations that has gripped the Afghan capital in recent months.
The cylindrical, single-bullet firearms look much like regular ink pens and are easy to carry undetected.
"It is like a click pen -- the shooter puts the bullet in the cartridge, aims and clicks the thrust button to fire the bullet," an official at Kabul's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Police last weekend unveiled a cache of 48 pen guns discovered in a larger haul of weapons including "sticky bombs" that can be slapped under vehicles and detonated remotely or on a timer.
"The terrorists wanted to use these weapons in complex target killings in the capital," said Interior Affairs Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian.
Rising unemployment and poverty have worsened Kabul's security situation, with kidnappings, robberies and drive-by shootings commonplace.
The violence has been compounded by a string of assassinations targeting peace activists, academics and government employees.
Taliban-linked groups blamed
"More than 40 people have been killed in targeted assassinations in the past six months in Kabul alone," the CID official said.
Some of those killings were carried out with unknown weapons that authorities suspect were pen guns, he said.
Officials have blamed such killings on Taliban-linked groups.
The Taliban, who under a peace deal signed with the United States in February are not supposed to be attacking urban areas, have denied involvement.
The insurgents have nonetheless stepped up attacks on security forces in rural areas, even as Afghan government and Taliban negotiators are meeting in Doha to devise an end to the war.
In one incident last week in Uruzgan Province, Taliban fighters offered 28 Local and National Police a chance to go home if they surrendered September 22, said officials.
"But after taking their guns, the Taliban killed them all," said Zergai Ebadi, a spokesman for the Uruzgan governor.
In a statement, the Taliban denied they had slaughtered the policemen after they surrendered.
Afghans are being encouraged to report crimes in districts, communities and villages to security forces under the Security Compact programme, which started on July 7 in Kabul and on August 16 in Herat Province.