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Gunmen kill two Afghan judges in Kabul ambush

Gunmen kill two Afghan judges in Kabul ambush

Gunmen shot dead two Afghan judges working for the Supreme Court during a morning ambush in the country's capital on Sunday, authorities said, as a wave of killings continued to shake the nation.

Violence has increased in Afghanistan in recent months despite ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and the government, especially in Kabul, where a new trend of targeted killings targeting high-profile figures has sown fear in the restless city.

The latest attack comes just two days after the Pentagon announced that it had cut troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500, the fewest in nearly two decades.

The attack on the judges occurred as they were driving to their office in a judicial vehicle, said Ahmad Fahim Qaweem, a spokesman for the Supreme Court.

"Unfortunately, we have lost two judges in today's attack. Their driver is injured," Qaweem told AFP.

There are more than 200 judges working for the country's highest court, the spokesperson added.

Kabul police confirmed the attack.

Afghanistan's Supreme Court was a target in February 2017 when a suicide bomb swept through a crowd of court employees, killing at least 20 and wounding 41.

In recent months, several prominent Afghans, including politicians, journalists, activists, doctors and prosecutors, have been killed in often brazen daytime attacks in Kabul and other cities.

Afghan officials have blamed the Taliban for the attacks, an accusation the insurgent group has denied.

Some of these killings have been claimed by the rival Islamic State jihadist group.

Earlier this month, the US military for the first time directly accused the Taliban of orchestrating the attacks.

"The Taliban's campaign of unclaimed attacks and targeted killings of government officials, civil society leaders and journalists must ... cease for peace to succeed," Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for the US forces in Afghanistan.

Targeted killings have risen despite the Taliban and the Afghan government holding peace talks in Qatar's capital Doha.

The Taliban carried out more than 18,000 attacks in 2020, Afghanistan's spy chief Ahmad Zia Siraj told lawmakers earlier this month.

On Friday, the Pentagon announced that it had reduced troop levels in Afghanistan to 2,500 as part of its agreement with the Taliban to withdraw all troops from the country by May 2021.

That agreement was reached in exchange for security guarantees from the insurgents and a commitment to hold peace talks with the Afghan government.

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