At least 20 policemen killed in Taliban ambush in western Afghanistan


New police chief among those who died when convoy was attacked in Farah province

KABUL: Twenty policemen were killed in a Taliban ambush of a police convoy in western Afghanistan and 10 troops died in an insurgent attack on an army checkpoint in the north, Afghan officials said on Monday, as minority Shias took to the streets of Kabul for the second day to protest against the arrest of a local militia commander.

During the demonstration in the Afghan capital, protesters opened fire on the police, wounding four policemen. The deputy interior minister, Gen Akhtar Mohammad Ibrahimi, said 44 policemen were also injured when protesters threw stones and other hard objects at them.

The Taliban ambush, in western Farah province on Sunday afternoon, wounded four policemen, including the deputy provincial police chief, said Dadullah Qaneh, a member of the provincial council.

The convoy was on its way to the district of Lash Wa Juwayn to introduce the newly appointed district police chief when it came under attack, said another council member, Abdul Samad Salehi. The police chief was also killed, said Qaneh.

In the northern Faryab province, the Taliban attacked an army checkpoint in Qaisar district, killing 10 troops, said Mohammad Tahir Rahmani, head of the provincial council. Three soldiers were wounded, while the fate of five others is unknown.

The Taliban, who in recent years have taken control of nearly half of Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the Farah attack, which was the latest in a series of brutal, near-daily Taliban assaults on Afghan military and security forces. There was no statement on the Faryab assault.

The Taliban view the US-backed government in Kabul as a dysfunctional western puppet and have refused to negotiate with it.

The protesters in western Kabul were rallying to denounce the arrest of Abdul Ghani Alipoor, a Shia militia leader in western Ghor province. The Afghan intelligence service accuses Alipoor of leading an illegal armed group that is behind extortion and other mafia-like behaviours in the region.

“I can hear the sporadic sound of shooting from the area,” MP Nasrullah Sadeqizada, who lives nearby, told AP by phone on Monday.

Mahobullah, a resident of the area, said hundreds of protesters were carrying posters of Alipoor, shouting “Alipoor is innocent” and demanding that he be released. During a previous attempt to arrest Alipoor, in June, security forces in Ghor clashed with his followers, leading to the deaths of seven civilians and four policemen.

On Sunday, hundreds clashed with police during a similar protest in Kabul. In that demonstration, three policemen were shot and wounded and 20 were injured by stones thrown by protesters, who also torched two police checkpoints.

There were also protests on Monday in the northern Balkh and central Bamyan provinces, but no reports of violence.