Taliban militants raided a police post outside the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, killing three officers, while a pro-government cleric was shot dead in a city mosque, officials said today. Three other police officers were missing after the insurgents attacked the post in Dand on the outskirts of the city yesterday, triggering a gunfight, the regional police commander Ghulam Ali Wahdat said. One was wounded in the exchange of fire, he said.
"One of our posts in Dand was attacked by Taliban on Monday morning. Three of our policemen were martyred, three others are missing and another officer was injured," he said. The Taliban rose from Kandahar province to sweep into government by 1996 before being removed in a US-led invasion in late 2001. The region sees almost daily attacks on government and international forces by Taliban insurgents.
Late yesterday, men on motorbikes shot dead a pro-government mullah, or religious leader, as he was praying in a Kandahar mosque, the provincial government spokesman Zalmai Ayoubi said. There was no claim of responsibility for the killing but the spokesman blamed the "enemies of Afghanistan", a common phrase used to refer to the Taliban, who have been accused of several similar murders in Kandahar.
The mullah was the 21st Muslim cleric to be killed by "the enemies" in the city since 2001, said the deputy head of the provincial religious council, Hekmatullah Hekmat. Another mullah was killed in a similar manner in his mosque a week ago. The Taliban are trying to regain power through an insurgency which has gained pace over the past two years and targets Afghan and international soldiers as well as prominent pro-government figures.
There are about 70,000 international soldiers in Afghanistan to help fight the insurgents, with up to 30,000 more US troops expected to begin deploying in the coming months. Nato's British forces were today checking a report that some civilians were killed during an operation against the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, a spokesman said. Hundreds of Afghans were been killed in air strikes and raids by foreign troops last year, undermining public support for the presence of international forces and leading to a rift between President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers. The latest incident happened in Baghni district on Monday night when, according to a provincial government source, five members of a family were killed in an operation by British forces. No further details were given by the official. "We are looking into this," said Maj Steve Melbourne, a spokesman for the British forces in Helmand. Nearly 700 civilians were killed up to October last year in raids by foreign and Afghan forces, an Afghan rights body said last month, quoting a UN estimate.