KANDAHAR -- An Afghan journalist working for a US-funded radio network was killed in a blast in southern Afghanistan Thursday (November 12), officials said, just days after a former television presenter was murdered in Kabul.
Azadi Radio reporter Aliyas Dayee was killed when a sticky bomb attached to his car exploded in Lashkargah, Helmand Province, said Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the province's governor.
Targeted killings of prominent figures, including journalists, clerics, politicians and rights activists, have become more common in recent months as violence surges in Afghanistan, despite peace talks between the government and the Taliban.
Dayee, 33, was on his way to the local press club with his brother when the car exploded, Azadi Radio Chief Editor Rateb Noori told AFP. The brother and two other persons were wounded.
Lashkargah has been at the centre of intense fighting between government forces and the Taliban in recent weeks.
"There is no doubt that the enemies of our media ... are behind this heinous act of terror," Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted in English.
In a separate statement condemning the murder, Ghani said his government was "committed to preserving and expanding freedom of expression".
Azadi Radio, known as Radio Liberty in the West and established during the Cold War, is funded by the US government.
Surging violence across the country
Dayee's murder was "another attack on the freedom of the press", said the top US envoy in Kabul, Ross Wilson.
"These attacks on journalists must stop immediately," he said on Twitter.
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, a group set up by media networks to oversee security for journalists in the country, urged its members to "keep safety as their highest priority".
No group immediately claimed responsibility.
Dayee's murder comes after Yama Siawash, a former Afghan television presenter, was killed November 7 in a similar bombing in Kabul.
The two killings come amid surging violence across Afghanistan, much of it unleashed by the Taliban as they attempt to gain leverage in seemingly stalled peace talks in Qatar.
Lashkargah saw intense fighting last month when Taliban militants launched a broad offensive in a bid to seize the city, triggering an exodus of thousands of families.
Helmand -- a Taliban stronghold -- is where international forces fought some of the bloodiest campaigns of Afghanistan's 19-year war.
On Wednesday (November 11), Vice President Amrullah Saleh accused the Taliban of planning to kill members of civil society groups.
"They are soft targets. The killings are aimed at eroding and hurting the emotions of the society, which will lead to people's dissatisfaction with the government," Saleh said.