KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban campaign focusing on the Afghan police appears to have intensified in recent days, with five attacks reported Saturday in which at least 15 policemen were killed throughout the country. Three of the policemen died in a NATO airstrike.
The latest casualties were in addition to a Taliban massacre of private security guards in Helmand Province on Friday morning, in which the death toll has now risen to 25; the poisonings of six policemen in Kandahar Province on Monday, reportedly by a cook who defected to the Taliban; and the suicide bombing deaths of four policemen, including a district commander, in Kandahar Province on Wednesday.
Afghanistan’s police officers have long had the largest share of casualties on the government side of the conflict, with 646 policemen killed in 2009, compared with 412 foreign coalition troops and 282 Afghan National Army soldiers, according to figures compiled by Brookings Afghanistan Index.
This year Afghan policemen have been dying at the rate of four to six a day, according to Zemarai Bashary, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior.
“Ten policemen were killed yesterday in different parts of the country,” he said Saturday. “First, the police are the first and foremost force against the enemy; in many parts of the country they’re the only force. Second, most of our casualties are from mine attacks and our police don’t have armored vehicles.” Recently, the United States has begun equipping some police units with armored Humvees, Mr. Bashary added.
In the worst of the new episodes, six policemen were killed Saturday morning while asleep at their checkpoint on the strategic Ring Road in Helmand Province, after some police colleagues betrayed them to the Taliban, according to Dawood Ahmadi, the spokesman for the provincial governor.
“This was a plot against the police force, and someone from our police had links with the Taliban and caused this incident,” said Kamaludin Sherzai, the provincial security chief. He noted that nine policemen had been assigned to the checkpoint, in the Nahri Sarraj district on the Ring Road, which links Helmand with Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan. The three surviving officers disappeared, he said.
In northern Afghanistan, in Baghlan Province, the chief of police in the Burka district, Lt. Col. Abdul Haq, was shot to death by gunmen who entered his home on Thursday, Munshi Abdul Majeed, the governor of the province, said Saturday. He said Taliban and other insurgent groups were active in the area, but the authorities did not yet know who was responsible.
In Logar Province, south of the capital, Kabul, a former district police chief, Hajji Bismillah, and an official of the National Directorate for Security, the Afghan intelligence service, who was not identified, were kidnapped by insurgents a week ago, and their bodies recovered Thursday, provincial officials said Saturday. Both were shot in the back of the head and their bodies dumped by a roadside in the Azri district, said Ghulam Mustafa Muhsini, the Logar provincial police chief.
In eastern Paktika Province on Friday, a roadside bomb in the Yousaf Khail district struck a police vehicle, killing three of the officers inside, Mukhles Afghan, the spokesman for the Paktika governor, said Saturday.
In the fifth new case, three Afghan policemen were apparently killed as a result of a NATO airstrike in northern Afghanistan on Friday during an engagement between Afghan forces and insurgents, according to a statement by the International Security Assistance Force on Saturday.
The I.S.A.F. statement said that Afghan security forces had requested close air support after they came under “insurgent fire from an unknown number of insurgents in multiple locations” in Jowzjan Province. NATO helicopters were used to fire missiles and cannons, and subsequently NATO officials discovered that the three policemen had been killed and several wounded “during the air weapons team engagement.”
NATO officials “offer their sincere condolences to the families, friends and colleagues” of the officers, the statement said.
A spokesman for the security force would not identify the nation whose helicopters were involved, pending an investigation of the episode. Swedish forces are stationed in the area, but it could not be determined if Sweden had any helicopter gunships deployed in Afghanistan.
The statement did not specifically say that the policemen were killed by the airstrike, which took place in the Darzab district, but Afghan officials confirmed that was the case. The district governor, Mohammad Rahimi, put the number of dead officers at 4, rather than 3, with 13 others wounded.
The Jowzjan provincial police chief, Col. Abdul Aziz Ghairat, expressed anger over the strike. “When we ask for support from coalition forces, they kill us instead,” he said.
Also on Saturday, four coalition soldiers were reported killed, including two Americans who died Saturday and another killed Friday in insurgent attacks in southern Afghanistan, according to NATO officials. The fourth casualty was a British soldier, killed in a firefight with insurgents in the Nad Ali district of Helmand Province, according to the British Ministry of Defense. So far this year, according to iCasualties.org, 37 coalition soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.
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