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2 Afghan policeman are among 6 killed in insurgent attacks

May 01, 2011|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske | Los Angeles Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents attacked in two Afghan provinces Sunday, killing six people including two policemen and a district council leader, and wounding 20, officials said.

Taliban officials denied responsibility for the attacks, despite warnings Saturday that they were beginning their spring offensive.

On Sunday morning, a 12 year-old suicide bomber struck a bazaar in the Barmal district of eastern Paktika province, killing four civilians, including a woman and the chairman of the district council, or shura, Shir Nawaz Khan, according to Muhibullah Samim, the provincial governor. A dozen were wounded in the attack.

Samim condemned the attack, blaming "enemies of peace in Afghanistan."

Later Sunday morning in southwest Ghazni province, a bicycle packet with explosives detonated in Mustofyet square in Ghazni province, killing two policemen and wounding a bystander, provincial police chief Zerawar Zahid said.

Meanwhile, Afghan and NATO officials claimed to have scored a victory in capturing a Taliban leader and two of his associates in the southern city of Kandahar, including an inmate on the run after the spectacular Taliban escape from Sarposa prison last week.

The Taliban leader, whom NATO officials did not identify, had repeatedly bombed Afghan and NATO forces in the Pashmul and Ushmad area before he was captured Saturday, according to a NATO statement.

On Saturday, Afghan and NATO forces detained an explosive-device expert and several of his associates in Kandahar who they found in possession of numerous homemade bomb materials, including 225 blasting caps and more than 1,100 pounds of explosive ammonium nitrate, according to the statement.

"Targeting and capturing these two leaders who specialize in explosive device attacks is part of an Afghan and coalition force effort to create more freedom of movement for the local citizens living within the province," the statement said.

The Sarposa inmate was among the 488 who escaped last weekend through a 1,050-foot tunnel. As of Sunday, at least 76 of the inmates had been recaptured and two had been killed while attempting to escape recapture, Afghan officials said. The warden and nine other prison officials have been arrested and were still being questioned in connection with the incident Sunday, Afghan officials said.

Each of Afghanistan's 34 provinces has a prison, as well as smaller local jails. Sarposa was one of the more sophisticated, with improved security after past escapes and attacks last year and in 2008, according to U.S. officials. But the prison and others across the country have been strained by an influx of inmates in recent years, U.S. officials said, up from about 2,000 in 2004 to about 20,000 now nationwide.

U.S. advisers were still consulting with Afghan correctional officials Sunday about ways to improve security across the nation's correctional system and at Sarposa in particular, where guards apparently allowed inmates to unlock their cells at night in order to use the bathroom, making it easier for the Taliban to stage last week's escape without alerting guards.

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