Taliban attack kills 13 Afghan police

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Taliban insurgents killed 13 local policemen while they were sleeping Friday, in an attack on their checkpoint in southeast Afghanistan, officials said.

The policemen were shot dead in the Andar district of Ghazni province, said district governor Mohammad Qasim Desiwal.

“They were asleep when their checkpoint came under attack by the Taliban and were killed by AK-47 fire,” Desiwal told AFP.

Provincial governor Mosa Khan Akbarzada confirmed the death toll and said a delegation had been sent to the district to investigate.

The victims were members of the 18,000-strong Afghan Local Police, a village-level force formed in 2010 to provide security in areas where the better-trained national police and army are scarce.

Afghan troops and police are increasingly on the front line against the insurgents, and suffering heavier casualties, as NATO combat troops prepare to withdraw by the end of next year.

The bodies of four Afghan regular soldiers were found Wednesday with their throats slit in Jawzjan, a day after they were kidnapped by the Taliban along the road to the Northern Province.

The Taliban have been waging an insurgency against the Afghan government since they were toppled from power by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Attacks traditionally intensify in spring after the harsh winter recedes.

A total of 23 people were killed Tuesday and Wednesday, including the four soldiers and two local employees of the Red Crescent medical charity.

Gherardo Pontrandolfi, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Kabul, said those killings would make it even harder to reach people in need.

“In many areas people cannot reach hospitals or clinics safely. And the end of winter is likely to bring renewed fighting, making the problem worse,” Pontrandolfi said in a statement Thursday.

Separately, the interior ministry in Kabul said Friday that police have arrested five Taliban insurgents who were planning suicide attacks on civilians in the capital and in another city later this month.

The four men and one woman were detained in the eastern city of Jalalabad Thursday and police seized four suicide bomb vests and C-4 explosives along with other weapons, the ministry said.

“They were trained outside Afghanistan's borders and have confessed their crime,” ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told a news conference.

He said the five Afghans were linked to the Taliban and the Haqqani network and were arrested “as they were preparing to launch a coordinated attack on civilian facilities on April 27-28” in Kabul and Jalalabad.

April 28, Victory Day, is a public holiday marking the mujahideen's overthrow in 1992 of the Soviet-backed government of Mohammad Najibullah.

The Haqqani network, a faction of the Taliban, was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a mujahideen leader against Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s who is now based with his family in Pakistan.

Haqqani is close to Al-Qaeda and his fighters are active across east and southeastern Afghanistan and in Kabul.

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