Taliban briefly overrun east Afghanistan district

AP News
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Posted: Nov 01, 2010 10:23 AM
Taliban briefly overrun east Afghanistan district

The Taliban briefly overran a district seat in eastern Afghanistan and torched government buildings there, officials said Monday.

Government forces who regained control of Ghazni province's Khogyani district headquarters a few hours later discovered that the 16 Afghan policemen stationed there were missing.

The assailants burned three rooms in the headquarters and damaged a vehicle, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said. He did not have information on any casualties.

"The district has been back under government control since 8:00 this morning," Ghazni Governor Musa Khan Ahmadzai told AP Television News. "For around one or two hours, there was a problem ... but our people are back inside (the district seat)."

The sixteen policemen were not yet accounted for, said Mohammed Ismail Jahanger, a spokesman for the provincial governor. It was unclear whether they ran away, were captured or voluntarily joined the Taliban, he said.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said all the police guarding the headquarters were either killed or taken prisoner and their weapons and vehicles were confiscated.

He put out a press release later saying the Taliban had left the district after damaging the headquarters.

A NATO spokesman said he did not have any details of the incident.

In recent months, Ghazni has become one of the most unstable provinces in Afghanistan. Insecurity around the country shot up after NATO and Afghan troops began pushing into the Taliban heartland of the south in July.

Analysts say the Taliban use such hit-and-run attacks on government institutions to prove they are still a potent force despite an intensive NATO-led campaign to kill or capture their leaders.

Many government offices have weakened defenses because of a high rate of desertion among the armed forces.

Parliamentary elections held in September did not take place in most of Ghazni because of the insurgent threat.

Afghanistan has more than 350 districts. Around 10 are under direct Taliban control but they have a presence in many more.

In an unrelated incident in southern Helmand province, NATO and Afghan troops killed 15 insurgents in a two-day battle over a bomb-making factory in Reg-i-Khan Nishin district that ended Sunday, the coalition said.

NATO troops eventually seized and destroyed a stockpile of explosives that would have been enough to build more than 2,000 bombs, Monday's statement said.

Also in Helmand, two Afghan women were found shot to death, said provincial government spokesman Daud Ahmadi. They had been running a small organization helping other women set up businesses before their bodies were found in Naway-e-Barakzayi district.

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Katharine Houreld in Kabul and Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS that officials spoke Monday).)