Taliban attack police in previously peaceful Afghan north

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 19, 2013 4:20 AM

FAIZABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Taliban fighters have attacked police in northern Afghanistan, government officials said on Thursday, though they gave different accounts of the severity of the attack.

Violence has increased recently in the Afghan north after years of relative peace, compounding worries about security after foreign troops leave next year.

The insurgents ambushed a police convoy during an operation to clear an area in Badakhshan province on Wednesday, said Dawlat Mohammad, administrative chief of the district.

Mohammad said 10 policemen were killed and 16 were captured.

But the Interior Ministry in Kabul denied that the Taliban had taken any policemen prisoner.

"We have unfortunately casualties among police but there is no one captured," said ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi. He declined to give details of the casualties.

A Taliban spokesman said it had been a "massive" attack on the police but militant spokesmen often exaggerate.

Mohammad said authorities had asked the Afghan army for help but there was a danger of another ambush if troops rushed in. Sediqqi said troops and helicopters had been deployed to the area.

Increasing violence in previously peaceful parts of Afghanistan is fanning concern about how its 350,000-strong security forces will cope once international forces leave by the end of 2014.

The United Nations has said civilians are bearing the brunt of the 12-year war and this week, its top human rights officer warned that an ominous rise in casualties was a sign that concern for human rights was waning.

(Reporting Feroz Sultani in Badakhshan, Mohammad Hamed in Kunduz and Hamid Shalizi in Kabul; Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Robert Birsel)