KABUL -- Militants shot dead four government employees in central Kabul Tuesday (February 9), police said, in the latest rush-hour violence to rock the capital as Afghanistan's spy agency said it had busted a "terrorist cell" involved in targeted killings.
Kabul has seen near-daily attacks during the busy morning commute, targeting prominent Afghans including politicians, journalists, activists, judges and religious scholars.
Kabul police spokesman Ferdows Faramarz told reporters that gunmen opened fire on a vehicle carrying staff from the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, killing four of them.
A separate attack saw the driver of a vehicle belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs killed in a bombing in Kabul, police and the ministry said.
Tuesday's attacks came a day after three bomb blasts rattled the capital, killing at least one person.
Afghan and US officials have blamed the Taliban for the wave of violence, although the group has rejected the charges.
Terror cell busted
Later on Tuesday, Afghanistan's spy agency said its forces had busted a six-member joint "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS)-Haqqani network cell in Kabul.
"The Taliban, ISIS and Haqqani group are collaborating with each other to carry out bombings and targeted attacks," the agency said, without specifying when exactly the cell was apprehended.
Meanwhile, Afghan security forces carried out a ground and air operation against the Taliban in the restive eastern province of Nangarhar, officials said.
The operation was launched last week in the Sherzad district of Nangarhar, and so far 80 insurgents and their commanders had been killed, Afghan army commander Karim Niazi told reporters touring some areas of the district on Tuesday.
"The Taliban had control on these areas for more than eight years ... but now our ground and air forces are beating them," he said.
String of killings
Afghan authorities have made several arrests in connection with the assassinations of journalists and civil society activists, and the attacks on security forces and government employees.
Examples of the latest violence include an Afghan judge being fatally shot in an ambush in Jalalabad on February 3, and two female judges working for the Supreme Court being shot by militants in Kabul on January 17.
Targeted killings with remotely detonated bombs attached to vehicles, or drive-by shootings, have become favoured tactics of insurgents, especially during the morning commute in big cities.
Through targeted killings, the Taliban seek to create social chaos, gain leverage at the negotiating table, weaken the media and silence the voice of critics, Afghan authorities and analysts say.
The surge in violence comes as peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government that began in September are deadlocked.
Government negotiators are pushing for a permanent ceasefire, but the insurgents have so far dismissed calls for a truce.