By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and SHARIFULLAH SAHAK
Published: August 19, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban continued its strategy of trying to assassinate government officials in Afghanistan on Sunday, killing three relatives of a police chief in Helmand Province, and trying but failing to kill top government officials of Logar Province in an ambush and extended firefight.
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Separately, in what appears to be the latest case of so-called insider or green-on-blue attacks, an Afghan police recruit killed one NATO service member and wounded another in the Spinbaldak district of Kandahar Province, Afghan officials said. NATO military officials confirmed the killing but gave no details. Most foreign troops in Kandahar are American.
American officials have grown increasingly alarmed about such killings, instituting new precautions in recent days to try to make Western military and police trainers more secure as they train Afghan counterparts. A NATO study has found that nearly 90 percent of such killings stem from personal disputes or outrage rather than insurgent plots to infiltrate the security forces or use them as cover for attacks.
There has long been an element of tit-for-tat in the Taliban attacks on lesser-ranking, and thus lesser-protected, government officials: In the past several years American and NATO forces have stepped up night raids on the homes not just of senior Taliban commanders, but also of those suspected of being Taliban fighters and lower-ranking commanders. While the military often says it tries to capture Taliban members on these raids, the reality is that a great number of their targets are killed.
Over the same period the Taliban have also raised the stakes, assassinating important but more minor officials and others linked to the government and NATO. In the first six months of this year at least 255 Afghan civilians died in targeted killings by “antigovernment elements,” a euphemism that includes the Taliban and other insurgents, according to the United Nations.
That marked a 53 percent increase over the same period last year, a leap that was all the more significant because overall civilian casualties fell by about 15 percent, and one that suggests that the rise in assassinations reflects some sort of coordinated effort by militants.
One such attack on Sunday, the assault in Helmand Province, was particularly shocking, and only partly because it came early in the morning on the first day of Id-al-Fitr, one of the most important Muslim holidays: Three relatives of the Nawa district police chief, including two of his brothers, were killed when a roadside bomb exploded as they made their way to a cemetery in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital. The police chief, Mohammed Shah Khan, escaped unharmed, but the attack wounded eight other members of his family, including women and children. They were all going to visit the grave of another brother who had also been the police chief in Nawa before he was killed by the Taliban, officials said.
In Logar Province, the governor, police chief and head of the provincial council were ambushed at noon as they were driving in an armed convoy escorted by Afghan soldiers. Insurgents armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers fought them in the Mohammed Agha district of Logar, south of Kabul, said Ghulam Sakhi Muhsin, the provincial police chief.
The three officials had been on the way to Kabul to celebrate the holiday. “We normally set up security check posts when we try to take off from our duties or we want to go somewhere on special days, and this was our Id day, and we all wanted to go to Kabul to join our families,” Mr. Muhsin said.
The Logar governor, Tahir Khan Sabari, said that one rocket hit his bodyguards’ truck, wounding one of them. “After the gunfire and rocket attacks from the insurgents, my guards got out of their vehicle and fought with the insurgents for almost an hour, and the firing stopped,” he said.
In Bamian Province, a rugged region of central Afghanistan, three soldiers from New Zealand were killed by a roadside bomb.
Habib Zahori and Jawad Sukhanyar contributed reporting.
Tags: Afghanistan, Taliban, US, NATO, Occupation, Pakistan, terrorist, Punjabi, ISI, Al, Qaeda, Northern, Alliance,
Location: Afghanistan (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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