KABUL -- The Taliban fatally shot Afghan government spokesperson Dawa Khan Menapal Friday (August 6) at a mosque in Kabul, the interior ministry announced.
Menapal directed the country's Government Information Media Centre.
"He [Menapal] was killed in a special attack carried out by mujahideen," Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said in a message to the media.
His murder comes days after the Taliban warned they would target senior administration officials to retaliate for increased air strikes.
On Tuesday, the Taliban tried but failed to assassinate Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi at his house. Eight people were killed.
On the same day, the Taliban warned of more attacks on administration officials.
The Afghan government, which has described Menapal's assassination as "a cowardly terrorist attack", said the government spokesperson was a staunch supporter of the state and resisted anti-government propaganda like "a steel mountain".
Menapal, who graduated from Kabul University's law and political science department, was a writer and had reported for Radio Azadi in Kandahar.
"Unfortunately, the savage terrorists have committed a cowardly act once again and martyred a patriotic Afghan," Ministry of Interior Affairs spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai said of his death.
Fighting in Afghanistan's long-running conflict has intensified since May, when foreign forces began the final stage of a withdrawal due to be completed later this month.
The Taliban control large portions of the countryside and are now challenging Afghan government forces in several large cities.
"Taliban is waging an assassination campaign to eliminate its critics. Many of the victims are civilians -- journalists, rights activists, cultural figures, and women in public roles," Radio Azadi journalist Frud Bezhan said in a Twitter post on Friday.
"Heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Dawa Khan Menapal. Very shocked and saddened by this irreparable loss. Taliban terrorists continue to target and kill Afghans who resist them. The blood of these killings is on the hands of Taliban and their backers," Mohsin Dawar, a member of the Pakistani parliament, tweeted.
Earlier, the Taliban had said they would not target non-combatants, but their murder of Menapal flies in the face of that assertion.
"The Taliban's Doha spokesperson Suhail Shaheen recently told me the group were not behind the spate of targeted killings across Afghanistan. He said we only kill those who are fighting us in the battlefield. Menapal was a journalist," Yalda Hakim, host of BBC World News TV, posted in a Friday tweet.
The failed bomb-and-gun attack on the defence minister brought the war to the capital for the first time in months and highlighted the worthlessness of the Taliban's past vow not to attack cities.
The Afghan and US militaries have stepped up air strikes in their fight against the insurgents in a string of cities.