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22 Killed in Assault on Afghan Police

A convoy with 400 guerrillas left Pakistan to mount the attack, provincial official says.

August 18, 2003|From Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — Hundreds of insurgents in a convoy of trucks attacked a police headquarters in southeastern Afghanistan, triggering a gun battle that killed 22 people, officials said Sunday.

The fierce fighting in Paktika province was the latest incident in a wave of violence that has underscored how unstable Afghanistan remains after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001.

The assault began shortly before midnight Saturday, when about 400 guerrillas drove trucks across the border from Pakistan and attacked the police station in the province's Barmal district, about 125 miles southeast of Kabul, said provincial Gov. Mohammed Ali Jalali. It wasn't clear how he knew the men came from Pakistan.

Firing rockets, heavy machine guns and grenades, the attackers easily took over the office.

Fifteen to 20 Afghan police were in the compound at the time, and seven of them -- including the district police chief -- were killed, Jalali said. The rest, realizing they could put up little resistance, fled.

Jalali said 15 to 20 insurgents were also killed.

The insurgents held the police station until dawn Sunday before destroying the building, getting back into their vehicles and fleeing to Pakistan, five miles away, Jalali said.

It was unclear why the attackers retreated, but Jalali said they likely did so because by daylight, word of the attack would have been passed on to the U.S.-led coalition, which could retaliate.

Previous battles between insurgents and government forces backed by the coalition have rarely involved more than 80 guerrillas. Antigovernment forces usually move in small groups on foot.

A senior government official said Afghanistan would press Pakistan to do more to police its side of the border when Pakistani Foreign Minister Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri visits Kabul on Thursday.

Jalali said the insurgents responsible for the attack included Taliban and fighters loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister who heads Hezb-e-Islami, a faction that has called for attacks against foreigners in Afghanistan. He also blamed Pakistan's intelligence service for playing a role in organizing the assault.

The assault came just days after 64 people were killed in various attacks around the country. The violence included a bus bombing that killed 15 and a battle between feuding warlords, both of whom were loyal to the Afghan government.

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