Taliban Kill 22 Afghan Policemen as Fighting Intensifies in Northwest

Members of the Afghan security forces in front of a vehicle that was set on fire after fighting between government forces and Taliban militants in Ghazni last week. In addition to seizing Ghormach District in the northwest just days ago, the Taliban have been attacking other parts of the country, including the province of Ghazni. (Credit: Reuters)
Members of the Afghan security forces in front of a vehicle that was set on fire after fighting between government forces and Taliban militants in Ghazni last week. In addition to seizing Ghormach District in the northwest just days ago, the Taliban have been attacking other parts of the country, including the province of Ghazni. (Credit: Reuters)

Days after overrunning a major district in the northwestern Afghan province of Faryab, the Taliban killed at least 22 policemen and captured the district’s security chief along with many of his men after they ran out of ammunition, officials said on Tuesday.

The officials said that an Afghan Army base of several hundred soldiers and a road-construction camp housing Afghan police officers remained surrounded in the district, Ghormach, which has long been contested by the Taliban.

The fighting there intensified as the insurgents have kept up an intense series of offensives all around the country. Officials describe a clear shift in the tactics of the insurgents, who have been emboldened by their brief capture of the Kunduz provincial capital last month. The Taliban are no longer acting as a mere hit-and-run force, instead assaulting in larger numbers with the intention of holding territory.

In recent days, the Taliban have overrun checkpoints near Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of southern Helmand Province. They have also repeatedly attacked two districts in Herat Province: Ghurian, where fierce fighting continued late into Tuesday, and Shindand, home to an air base in western Afghanistan.

In the fighting in Faryab Province, many local officials feared that the two besieged security bases in Ghormach could be overrun, further depleting the Afghan forces and handing the Taliban an infusion of military hardware. But government efforts to reinforce the district were disrupted by insurgents’ roadblocks and improvised bombs.

Afghan Army officials acknowledged that their posts in Ghormach were under attack. But Mohammad Reza Rezai, a spokesman for the Afghan military in the north, said the army units were fully equipped to repel the attacks.

“The Taliban are trying to take some of the army posts, but we have inflicted major casualties on them,” Mr. Rezai said. “The base has enough food and ammunition.”

The fate of the Ghormach District police chief, Abdul Majeed Gilimbafi, and his men, who were detained on Monday, remained unclear. Rahmatullah Turkestani, a member of the Faryab provincial council, said the Taliban had announced that Mr. Gilimbafi would be publicly executed Tuesday morning. But Mr. Turkestani’s latest information suggested that the execution had been postponed.

“For four days, the police commander resisted without food and water,” Mr. Turkestani said. Exhausted by the fighting, and with no reinforcements in sight, some of the policemen retreated to the army base, and the police chief, who remained, was wounded in the shoulder.

Mr. Turkestani added, “After they ran out of ammunition, 37 police were killed, and poor Commander Majeed was detained along with 17 of his policemen.”

Naqibullah Fayeq, a member of Parliament from Faryab, said 22 police officers had been killed, and 19 detained. Faryab police officials could not be reached for comment.

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SOURCE: MUJIB MASHAL 
The New York Times